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Ducks and flowers and decorators and seedlings

♥Feb. 20th, 2017 // 08:02 pm
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I've just been looking at the bird 'flu guidance for when the current control order runs out (at the end of the month). Given that free-range birds can only be kept in for twelve weeks before they become barn-raised, which happens at the start of March, I was expecting some changes and had my fingers crossed that I'd be able to start feeding the ducks properly again. Actually, though, they're just officially permitting what I was already doing on animal welfare grounds....

So, it looks like they'll not be getting ad-lib food until at least May. They don't like this at all, and my first duck egg of the year is getting further and further away. I'm very jealous of Mrs Farmer, who moved her hens into an unused polytunnel and is getting far better egg production than usual for the time of year.

In more pleasing spring-time news, yesterday we noticed that one of the dwarf irises on the drive was about to flower and a few more had green flower spikes. We went out at lunchtime today to see that half a dozen of them had suddenly burst into bloom. Oddly, the flowers last year came out the day we went to Eastercon and were pretty much over when we got back. It's been a cold winter this year, and was warm last, so I can only think that it's because they're better established this year: last year was their first.

The decorators have been hard at work on the living room today, and there's one coat of fresh paint on everything. We're camping out in the study: it's not a very small room, and would probably be fine with just the two sofas and coffee/side tables in it. Those plus the usual two desks and masses of books, though, are making things very cosy. Jo is bemused but coping.

Tomorrow, I'm going to pot on the first of this year's veg seedlings. Fingers crossed for a better spring / early summer than last year, and resultant shelves full of passata and other bottled stuff.
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Ah, spring....

♥Feb. 19th, 2017 // 10:08 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1200325.html]

It's amazing what riding GB on a warm, sunny spring morning will do for my mood, especially when he's going really well (for a geriatric!) and we get to have a nice session!
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The fridge man cometh back again....

♥Feb. 17th, 2017 // 07:24 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1200100.html]

This morning, Mike woke me with the worrying news that the fridge and cupboard doors were not longer properly attached.

This afternoon, the fridge man came back and moved the attachment points to ones that are, in retrospect, far more sensible (we were both a bit "yeah, should have thought of that").

Fingers crossed....

Also this afternoon cameth the second guy to measure up and quote for the hall and living room floor. The first guy said "The floor's a bit uneven, we'll need to put something down first to level it off". The second guy, who was actually a floor fitter not a salesman, was really worried about the unevenness of the floor, and thinks we should get fake (vinyl) wood instead because it's cheaper and will work on an uneven floor.

I'm actually quite tempted: I'll be able to use a steam mop on it, for a start, which you can't do with actual wood (you have to use a very-lightly-damped cloth/mop, which sounds like a marvellous way to turn muddy paw prints into a thin even coating over the whole floor). When I asked first guy about dealing with mud, he said "you can wipe it up with damp kitchen roll", which didn't really seem like a satisfactory long-term solution when Jo's left a trail around the room: I think he thought I meant actual lumps of the stuff. Second guy, on the other hand, immediately said that he didn't think we should go with the kind of (fairly rough and grained) wood surface we'd been planning because it's a nightmare to keep mud-free when you have dogs.

Mike's slightly coming round to the idea, but wants to see it in a house. We shall see.
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Note to self

♥Feb. 15th, 2017 // 07:40 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1199703.html]

Defrost the ice box in the old fridge more frequently in future.

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The fridge man cometh!

♥Feb. 14th, 2017 // 03:52 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1199288.html]

After a saga of epic proportions, six months of varying degrees of faffing, and six weeks of putting up with the fact that the fridge wasn't in the kitchen, I finally have my shiny new fridge:



Not only is it significantly bigger than the old one (and we've kept the old one), so that fridge tetris will be less of a common game, but it's also actually attached to the cupboard door, so that you only have to open one door!

I am probably more excited than I should be by this.

One of the things we'll be replacing when we have the living room redecorated is the side tables: if anyone would like a nest of three pale wood side tables from John Lewis, please say. Also up for grabs: a hand blender/whisk and a rolling pin with a set of interchangable thickness guides. We can bring them to Eastercon. (There is also our coffee table, but it's pretty battered and would need a good sanding and re-varnishing, as well as being a bit big to conveniently bring to Eastercon. Say if you've a particular desire for it. Again, pale wood from JL.)
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Oops

♥Feb. 13th, 2017 // 04:43 pm
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For a lovely change, although the wind's bitter, it's been lovely and sunny today.

I celebrated by taking GB for a little ride in the school, where he was doing really well (to the extent that I had to remind myself not to push him too hard), and then we trimmed and tidied up the willow fedge.

After lunch, Mike had to work so I took Jo out for a nice, long-ish (for convalescent pooches) walk. As we started back down the hill opposite the house, Mike appeared on the drive and frantically shouted "Hydrotherapy!" at me.

Oops. We'd forgotten that Jo had a swimming lesson in, um, fifteen minutes and, of course, I'd had no signal when Mike tried to call me to get me to come back early.

The ducks got a rather hurried lunch and then we headed off in the car and only arrived a minute or so late. At which point I looked at Jo and just about managed to see her under the layer of mud.

Lots of hosing her down with the shower did help somewhat, but the water in the tank was rather murky after she'd been in it for a few minutes. "It's a good job I like you..." said the hydro lady, before conceding that it didn't matter too much given that the next (and last for the day) dog was the one with something of a problem controlling his bowels.
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The kindness of strangers

♥Feb. 11th, 2017 // 08:00 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1198338.html]

At my last quilt workshop, I started making a quilt (duh) and then realised after I'd come home and carried on with it that I didn't have enough of one of the fabrics. And that the piece I had left didn't have the selvedge strip on it.

(Fabrics designed for quilters often have fairly detailed product information printed on the selvedge, to make it easier to get more when you get half way through and realise that you don't have enough. I dare say that sensible people make sure to keep the selvedge just in case....)

I thought I'd bought it at the craft shop in Canterbury the week before, but wasn't sure. The next time he went into town, I sent Mike in with a piece of it and he and the shop assistant looked but couldn't find it. I also went online and looked through all the fabrics sold by the supplier that they usually use, but didn't find it there.

Bugger. No idea where it came from.

This afternoon, Mike was tidying his desk in preparation for having the living room redecorated (we're going to decamp to the study while it's being done). I went and got a bin bag, as the bin was full, and when I emptied the bin into it I saw... a strip of selvedge! Admittedly it wasn't the one I was after, but did it mean that I'd not emptied my sewing bin at the workshop but instead brought it home...? It did, and a bit of rooting produced the one I was after.

Ten seconds with Google found me the (US) manufacturer's website (and the depressing news that the fabric's two years old and discontinued), and an hour or so more revealed that no one in the UK seems to stock it, nor did any of the shops listed on the manufacturer's list of 'shops that stock this fabric'. I did, however, eventually find a shop in Maine that had it in stock!

I crossed my fingers and sent them an email asking if they'd be prepared to send it internationally, and got a very nice email in response that said they would but wondered about payment: could I send them a US money order? Argh. Another look at their website showed that they do take Paypal for online orders, so I've emailed back and asked if I could just pay like that instead.

Fingers crossed, and if there's some reason why I can't then I suspect I'll be asking around for people coming from the US to Eastercon!
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I don't think we're going to be generating much power today....

♥Feb. 11th, 2017 // 01:31 pm
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Snow Jo!
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1 dpi

♥Feb. 8th, 2017 // 05:02 pm
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Can you tell who it is, yet?



The little old ladies at Little Quilt Club were utterly bemused when, having spent a while making perfectly normal square-in-a-square blocks for the storm at sea quilt, I whipped out my EPP box and started sewing together lots of brightly coloured squares. They were none the wiser when I showed them the printout I was using to remind me of the layout!
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Quilty

♥Jan. 31st, 2017 // 10:21 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1197186.html]

(LJ app still letting me post to my LJ even though it won't log me in. V mysterious!)

It has stopped being quite so cold, for which I am very grateful. It is rather misty, but I suppose you can't have everything.

I seem to have been quite busy, with living room redecoration arranging, pooch wrangling, failing to find a new horse, and several quilt-related things.

...living room redecoration... )

...pooch-wrangling, failing to find a new horse... )

...several... )...quilt-related... )...things... )

The down side of my being out at weekend was that Mike had to horse wrangle by himself when they were coming in to bed. They behaved on Saturday but on Sunday went charging off, spraining a couple of Mike's fingers in the process. They were also behaving like idiots list night, trying to get to the new mares (even GB!): possibly they've come into season. To be on the safe side, even though it's going to be a bit slippery I'm going to just let them run down the hill on their own tonight rather than try and lead both of them in along the road.
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Fine weather for quilting

♥Jan. 22nd, 2017 // 05:58 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1196608.html]

Weather and Mike playing Skyrim mean I've been making great progress with a hand quilting project: it just seems like the right sort of weather to be sitting with a quilt on my lap. And a blanket underneath it.

The boys didn't get any carrots today:


They nearly didn't get any water, but fortunately we decided that we didn't quite believe the Met Office's assurances that the freezing fog would clear Real Soon Now and saved the left-over water from yesterday. That meant that, when the garage tap failed to thaw out in the non-existent sunshine, we only had to carry a couple of buckets over from the house to top things up.

(As I usually do, I posted the picture into a private LJ post using the LJ app and then edited the post to copy the html to a DW post, before deleting the LJ post. (Shh, this is actually the easiest workflow I've managed to find). Oddly, today when I opened the LJ app it gave me a message about authentication and demanded that I log back in, but repeatedly failed to let me do so. On a whim, I tried posting anyway and it worked. Suspect that this is not the intended behaviour.)
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Still chilly

♥Jan. 20th, 2017 // 06:06 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1196258.html]

Part of the reason it's so chilly down here is because this is what it looks like at 9:30 in the morning:



We have one of the horses' water buckets by the school, for when they're turned out nearby. This afternoon, we were intrigued to see how frozen it was, so we tipped it out to have a look:



(I managed to ride GB a little this afternoon, for the first time in a while. I was going to try yesterday but the school was still like concrete when they were due to come in. He was doing ok other than occasional stumbles when he stepped on a lump of sand and it confused him by not squooshing down like it normally does.)

Still, the good news is that "temperatures are set to plummet to -7C in rural areas" tonight, so at least it'll be warmer than it has been. Um. Right?
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Brr

♥Jan. 18th, 2017 // 06:47 pm
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It's been quite chilly here (yesterday, on the evening weather forecast, they mentioned that the afternoon had been sunny with a high of 13 in Scotland, and sunny with a high of 1 in Kent...), and we think that last night may have been the coldest since we moved here: the ducks' water bucket, inside the duck house inside the stable, was frozen over this morning, and when Mike did the animals' water this afternoon the garage tap (which gets the sun, unlike the stableyard one, which he didn't even try) took a while to run: both pretty much unheard of. (The weather station seems to be broken, so I don't have an exact figure. At least -10, maybe -12?)

Mike bought new carrots for the horses a couple of days ago, and yesterday I forgot to put some water in the bucket to store them (carrots keep better under water if it's -- ha ha -- warm weather). This morning, they were rather frosty looking, and the bucket of water from GB's stable that I poured over them had ice floating on the surface, with the end result that the carrots in the boys' dinners looked rather... chilly.



It turns out that the new people in the flat, who we've still not spoken more than a few words to for largely weather-related reasons, actually have three horses, all mares. Bugs was very interested in going to say hello when I brought the boys in past their field yesterday.

Jo had her first (this time around) swimming lesson today, a very easy session to get her back into it but she seemed happy enough and the physio was happy with how she looked in the water.
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Bloody hipsters

♥Jan. 13th, 2017 // 06:48 pm
[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1194888.html]

My fortnightly box of flowers arrived today (we have a brave DPD man, and his route to get here doesn't involve the hill. As he was leaving, I asked where he was going next and after some discussion, including my describing the van I'd watched take three goes at it before giving up a little earlier, he decided to go the long way around to avoid having to try it).

They are, as ever, lovely -- roses and wax flowers, which are tiny wee things with a lovely lemon scent -- but this week's box included a special free gift as well! A good friend of Freddie's has just launched a new company, and here was a sample of his fabulous new artisanal... toothpaste.

They offer a subscription service, or you can buy it in Waitrose.
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Ponies in the snow

♥Jan. 13th, 2017 // 02:59 pm
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Pooch update

♥Jan. 11th, 2017 // 12:57 pm
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Jo continues to look slightly less silly every day, and her leg seems to be healing on schedule as well.

We've just been for our 'walk': a few minutes down the road and back, but at least it's getting her out of the house. In another week or so, she'll be cleared to lie on the ground outside, so we won't have to keep tying her up in the barn, and she'll be back to swimming lessons.

I do hope that we don't get lots of snow tomorrow. I'll feel very mean if we do when she's not allowed to bound around in it!
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Picking up the pooch

♥Jan. 6th, 2017 // 09:35 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1193938.html]

After a rather rushed early morning (the farrier, and Mike being in London, meant I had a fair bit to do with the boys), I headed off to collect Jo from the vet.

Shortly after I got onto the A2, a couple of policemen, car parked across the road, waved me back off it, which made my heart sink: that meant I'd have to brave the Canterbury ring road to get back on track, and the Canterbury ring road locks up at the drop of a hat let alone the addition of all the traffic from the A2.

Fortunately, it wasn't actually too bad: getting to the ring road was slow, but it moved well once I was there, and I was only about ten minutes late to the vet.

Jo was, as ever, very pleased to see me, and nearly dragged the nurse across the waiting room. The poor dear looks very silly.

On the way home, I realised that I'd actually been incredibly lucky with the drive there: the car accident that caused the closure was just being loaded onto a flatbed, and there was a long line of parked cars sitting on the road behind it. When I got to where I'd been waved off the road, there were three police cars and lots of flashing signs: I must have got there very soon after they closed it, and was just too late to miss being stuck there for an hour or more and just too early to miss having the ring road full of diverted traffic.

Jo's putting a reasonable amount of weight on the leg now, but she's obviously sore and struggling to get comfortable when she lies down. Hopefully she'll feel better in a few days. I'd forgotten quite how silly she looked with her leg shaved!
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It feels very odd...

♥Jan. 5th, 2017 // 10:24 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1193484.html]

... to be making my evening snack of cheese and biscuits without the sound of scurrying feet when I open the fridge, and the sight of a very politely drool-dripping pooch sitting next to me while I make it....

(The night nurse says she's fine, though, and is eating and accepting of cuddles.)
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Vet news

♥Jan. 5th, 2017 // 01:15 pm
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I took Jo down to the orthopaedic vet this morning, and he thinks it's either a tear in the meniscus of the knee or (less likely) an inflamed tendon.

She's stayed in for surgery, and if it is the meniscus then he'll remove the damaged part and she should be better for two or three years, after which it will become painful (if she's still around).

Just as she'd finished growing her coat back, she'll be back to looking silly again. And then there will be the rehab.

Edit: it was a tear, she's out of surgery and waking up.
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Pooch update

♥Jan. 4th, 2017 // 06:16 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1193097.html]

Jodie's continued to be varying amounts of lame since we went to the vet last week, so today she went in for x-rays.

We've just picked her up, very happy to see us. When the vet showed us the x-rays, there was obvious swelling on the joint that had the surgery, and the vet said there was quite a lot of movement in the joint (just like before the surgery). I asked what it meant and she said "Well, I've never seen one of these repairs fail, so I'm not sure," which rather implies that she thinks it has.

Off to the people who did the operation tomorrow, with orders to prep for her going into surgery the same day.

Poor pooch.

Various other stuff is also sucky, so I'm feeling rather glum at present.
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Pooch

♥Dec. 28th, 2016 // 05:41 pm
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Jo was still lame this morning, so I booked her in to see the vet.

The pain is in her knee, and she's not showing any signs of an infection (unlikely after such a long time), so it's either that the joint's developed arthritis from the op (certain to happen at some point) and she tweaked it yesterday morning or that there's something gone wrong with the repairs (worrying).

She's got a weekend of pottering around but no walks, and pain killers, and we'll see how she gets on. Hopefully she'll improve, if not there will be x-rays.
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Worrying

♥Dec. 27th, 2016 // 03:35 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1192650.html]

Jo's limping, on the same leg that she had the operation on over the summer. Somewhat ominous, hopefully unconnected.

Vet tomorrow, if she's still not right in the morning.
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Sale dilemmas

♥Dec. 25th, 2016 // 09:05 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1192237.html]

We're plotting new sofas, and have pretty much decided which ones we want and narrowed the fabric choices down to two or three (just waiting for the swatches to arrive so that we can see them in the living room).

One of the sizes we want (the one that will be the pooch's) is in the sale, half price but only in red (yuck) or a slightly darker beige than we currently have, which we were avoiding because it shows the mud and such.

Decisions, decisions....

(Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you had a lovely day!)
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Flowers

♥Dec. 24th, 2016 // 04:31 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1191985.html]

My flowers, a week and a bit ago, were half a dozen amaryllis stems. My mother told me I had to put canes up the middle of the (hollow) stems, or the weight of the flowers would make them flop over in the middle, which I dutifully did.

This morning, I cam downstairs to find that one of them had flopped over anyway, right behind the flowerhead where the cane didn't reach. I threw it away and put it down to bad luck, but then another one went while we were walking the pooch and I decided I'd better do something. I put some florist's wire around the weak spot on all of them, but it wasn't keeping the floppy one entirely upright, so in the end I poked a cocktail stick into each stem, just behind the flower, and have crossed my fingers.

Then I went and got some greenery from the garden, to confuse the eye and make the supports less obvious. We'll see how they do, and I'll know for next time!



(I also, today, got an arrangement of roses from my sister via M&S. I suspect my recent experiences will have me going 'tsk' when they don't last as long as I think that they should.
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Hurrah!

♥Dec. 23rd, 2016 // 03:58 pm
[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1191443.html]

The Aga is fixed!

Of course, now I'm worried that this wind will put the power out.... We've already had a couple of little flickers.
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Bow ties

♥Dec. 22nd, 2016 // 06:16 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1191248.html]

On and (mostly) off, I've spent the last six months folding linen squares into little bow tie shapes.

I've finally finished doing them:



And today I started sewing them together, which is looking like taking *far* less time:



(The fabric isn't actually beige, it's pale purple!)

Also today, the Aga Man failed to fix our Aga (someone with the right part will come back tomorrow), and we took Jo for a run on the beach, where we met an 18 month old Bernese bitch, who was very friendly. We really should have taken a picture for those times when people give us funny looks for saying that Jo's a midget, though.
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Oh, and....

♥Dec. 21st, 2016 // 07:59 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1190725.html]

While we were out, Jodie took advantage of her muddy feet to get rid of the crisp fresh laundry scent on the just-changed bed linen.

Sigh.

And the ovens on our year-old Aga have stopped working. There's an engineer coming tomorrow.

Sigh.

Saw the first bluebell shoot of the year, though!
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Miss Whiplash

♥Dec. 21st, 2016 // 07:23 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1190513.html]

(Only not in the fun way.)

My neck's been getting steadily more painful over the last few days, so today Mike drove me to the physio to get it checked out. Much poking and prodding later, he happily told me that he was fairly sure that I hadn't cracked an vertebrae: yay?

What he does think is that I've got whiplash from coming off Bugs, which probably also means that I didn't catch Mike's illness, I just had headaches and feeling crap and aching because the whiplash was developing. This explains why I didn't get various other symptoms, like a fever and a cough.

On the way there, we stopped off at John Lewis to look at fabric samples for the new sofas we're planning on getting. They had an ex-display coffee table of the model we we also planning on getting, so that came home with us. Half price with a couple of tiny chips to the corners suits us just fine!

Now I just need to order my own copies of the fabrics that we liked, so that we can look at them some more and start thinking about curtains.
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How not to ship things

♥Dec. 20th, 2016 // 10:31 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1190382.html]

If you're a fancy hamper company, that goes to the trouble of having your own branded cardboard boxes to protect your fancy hamper boxes while in transit, and you only make hampers that come in three sizes of fancy boxes, I'd have thought it wasn't beyond the realms of sensibleness to have three different sizes of branded cardboard box, rather than shipping things in a box three times bigger than is needed.

And if you must send things in an enormous box, at least get those cellulose packing chips that dissolve in water, rather than the plastic kind that will just end up taking up half the volume of my landfill bin at a time of year when it's likely to get far more full than usual, hey?



(It is possible that they'd just run out of the right size box but, if so, the same thing happened last year which might also be a hint about stock control....)
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Mid-winter things

♥Dec. 19th, 2016 // 09:46 am
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We have both been poorly. Mike is still poorly, I ache horribly but think it's more horse- than virus-related.

In contrast to the last couple of years, when riding schedules have been messed up by rain, this year it's been mist that's the problem (as well as being ill. And sore). I had a go on GB last week but had to stop because a) it was painful and b) GB kept stopping and going 'I don't like this' because he could tell I wasn't right, and Mike hopped on GB yesterday while I lunged Bugs braced myself and clung onto the end of the rope while Bugs charged around the school in circles making occasional contact with the ground, but that's been the extent of it lately.

Ponies in the mist: like gorillas, but less endangered.


Our field is is comparatively fabulous condition, because it's been fairly dry: we're not only still using the steep gate, but we're also still letting the horses run down the hill on their own rather than leading them the long way around. Long may it last!

Still, we have managed to get the Christmas tree up:


I did initially think that this year's brown Amazon wrapping materials were a bit dull, but they go quite well with the decorations I've put on the tree this year, so that's nice.

In bad news for upcoming visitors, Mario Run keeps suggesting that I move to a location with a better mobile signal. On the other hand, thanks to a saga involving the new neighbours finding a water pipe in the way while widening their drive that would have been moderately entertaining had I posted about it while it was happening, our water pressure is now better than it's ever been, so that's a win for people trying to shower while we're filling the horses' water buckets.
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Ditto

♥Dec. 10th, 2016 // 03:02 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1189369.html]

This morning, Mike went out to give the boys their breakfast and found Bugsy happily eating the front lawn.

I must have not quite latched his door last night, and then he smashed his way through the chain that's there as a second line of defence (this was odd, as previously he's just gone under it).

In retrospect, this explains the happy horse noises I heard outside late last night: at the time, I just assumed it was TWWOTV's mares and a weird echo / sound reflection, which we get plenty of. I'm surprised that GB wasn't shouting, though. He had sweat marks on his coat this morning, and his stable was a complete state (for the first time since we've been here, I just threw away his whole bed and gave him a new one. Contrast with Bugsy, who gets this about once a fortnight), so he'd obviously spent the night being a big bundle of stress.

My back was feeling much better, if still sore, yesterday morning, which was fortunate because Mike was in London so I had the whole stableyard to do on my own. My back is feeling much worse today. I have learnt my lesson and Mike will be doing the mucking out for the next couple of days.

Some experimentation has shown that the ducks will neither eat nor use their pond indoors. When Mike moved the pond outside and refilled it this morning, they charged over to have a bath and Agnes (who has a bad leg and spends a lot of time in there) doesn't seem to have left it since except when they had their corn. We're being careful about getting rid of left-over food before to corvids notice it, but I don't really think that there's much else we can do: there's no point stressing them to death to avoid the risk of catching 'flu.

We went, with a certain amount of trepidation, to get a Christmas tree this morning. Last year, when we went on the equivalent of yesterday, we had great trouble finding one. Today, though, the little garden centre had a good dozen that were much nicer than the one we ended up with last year, and the one we bought seems to be very suitable: nicely symmetrical, branches not starting too low down, no enormous bald spike on top. Phew.

Mike seems to be coming down with another cold. I have explained that this is Just Not On, as it's currently *my* turn to be lying around feeling pathetic, but he's insistent on having it. Men!
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Bloody animals

♥Dec. 8th, 2016 // 05:18 pm
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As we do, we rode the horses this morning. Even though it was a bit windy, Bugsy was very well behaved for me, and we started doing some (for him) fairly complicated sequences of movements. He did really well the first time through, and the second time was also going great until he caught sight of TWWOTV's two mares charging around on the side of the hill and took off after them.

In much the same way as Mike really needs to stop landing on the same shoulder every time, I really need to stop landing (almost) flat on my back. Trotting afterwards was incredibly uncomfortable.

"I'm starting to wonder if we should keep him," Mike said.

Still, I'm doing better than I was: I still can't bend over but I can now crouch down. Getting back up again is pretty horrific, mind. Pooch is wondering why she's not getting stroked as much as usual, and indeed why I keep making peculiar noises when she head-butts me to make sure I'm aware of the deficiency.

This will rather play silly buggers with plans for the next few days, including how long Mike manages to get to the office for tomorrow (rather depends on whether I can muck out; I couldn't today), the amusing scene of Mike attempting to get the Christmas tree into the car on his own on Saturday, and quite probably Mike having to porter Christmas presents and wrapping paper around the house on Sunday as I get things ready to send off.

Poor Mike's had to do everything today, including holding GB for the dreaded blood test of doom. Still, he didn't get smashed into the wall, so that's a win.
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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
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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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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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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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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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