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Definitely autumnal...

♥Sep. 10th, 2017 // 06:01 pm
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- fungi in the woods
- misty mornings
- light rugs on the boys overnight (and associated repeatedly checking the rain radar to see when we should bring them in to make sure they don't get caught in a shower just before the rugs go on them)
- no longer need to water the garden
- two evening haynets for the boys
- bringing them down the hill on my own when Mike's in London
- entrance to ex-Mrs Up The Hill's field turned into a swamp....

So, today we moved the boys back into our field. That meant a busy morning: leave the boys in the stableyard; go up the hill for a final poo pick and taking down the electric fence; put the electric fence back up in our field (the grass is still growing, so we'll put them in a small bit of it for a month or so and then start strip grazing for the winter); point out to the boys that the gate to the field is now open and watch them charge in to start noshing).

I've also started the sloe gin, which will be much more abundant than last year. It somehow seems wrong to be picking them so early, but some of the ones we picked today were almost over-ripe.

It's nearly time for jelly making, once we've fitted in a day scrumping on the common. The chilli one last year was quite a hit, and the patio chillis have done well (unlike the conservatory ones, which are pathetic), and I've not made a sloe one for a few years (and have plenty of sloes still in our hedge if needed). I probably want one more, suggestions welcome....
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Ah, the English weather

♥Aug. 30th, 2017 // 01:25 pm
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Yesterday, Mike walked Jodie before he went to work, which was a good call: it got up to 31C, and she wouldn't have liked to walk in that.

Today, I decided against putting on my Barbour, even though it's long enough to meet the top of my boots, because I thought I might be a bit too warm in it. I also decided against putting raincoats on the boys, because I was worried they'd be hot.

It turns out that these were both mistakes.

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♥Jul. 11th, 2017 // 05:49 pm
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It's raining! And the forecast is for it to keep doing so all night! (Maybe now the fertiliser that Mr Farmer put on the field the other week will actually get washed into the ground: radical concept!)

The swallows have fledged their chicks. We suspect that the wrens have as well, but they vanished fairly quickly. The swallows, on the other hand, are still around and learning how to fly: we keep walking into stables to be met by confused birds trying to avoid flying into us.

I'm a wee bit worried about Esk, who seems to be having some difficulties in the egg department: she keeps laying wonky ones, and a couple of days ago she produced two in one afternoon, the second with a rather squidgy shell that Jo was very pleased to receive. Mind you, that was the same day when we found one that Agnes had laid actually in the pond, so, y'know....

This afternoon, I had my first private session with my new Pilates instructor. I'm rather tired now. I think it'll work out, though: I've booked another session!
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I had thought it was cooler today...

♥Jul. 8th, 2017 // 06:18 pm

... but we've just been up the hill to get the boys down, with detour to get the ragwort* out of the Up The Hill's once-and-maybe-future veg garden**, and now I've changed my mind....

We had been going to go to the County Show on Friday, but decided that tomorrow looked cooler and so better for Jo (and me!). It now looks as though we'll have to leave her at home anyway.

* It's next to the road, and I noticed some while walking past the other day, so I sent a text asking if I could get it out before it went to seed: the seed would have blown straight onto the summer pasture, and just led to more work next year.

** The old Up The Hills had a veg garden there, it's currently something of a jungle featuring head-high nettles, willow herb and St John's Wort. Apparently, the girls have been exploring it but I'm probably the first adult to go down there in a year. If they have, they must be getting very used to nettle stings.
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Hot hot hot...

♥Jun. 17th, 2017 // 08:17 pm
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This morning, we went up to the summer pasture and set up the electric fence (to keep the boys away from the (rickety and barbed-wire-topped) real fence), and then took them up there. It was quite warm. As ever, they spurned the water trough up there and so drank all the water in the stableyard when they came back down. Sigh. (It always takes them a few weeks to deign to drink from the trough up there, presumably because it tastes different: it's a stone trough when they're used to plastic, and/or the water doesn't go through the softener that treats our water.)

I'm a little concerned by Agnes, aka Limpy McDinosaur Duck. She's being even limpier than usual, and holding her wings very strangely as she hobbles around the place, and when she's lying down she's been wibbling her beak and twitching her wings. I was half thinking I'd pick her up for a quick check when we put them to bed, even though she hates being handled, but she made it easy by getting most of the way to their house and then just collapsing with a splat on the ground. Couldn't find anything obviously wrong, and I'm not going to be calling a weekend evening vet for her, but I am quite worried that she's suddenly got much worse. Fingers crossed that the magic 'pick her up to see what's wrong' cure will work and she'll be better tomorrow.

The garden, on the other hand, is going along well. The polytunnel's looking very green, and there's at least one actual tomato set on the early russian variety:

(10th May, to compare: they have grown!)

We've also got actual you-could-eat-those baby courgettes, very teeny squash, lots of tomatillo cases with baby fruit inside, and runner bean flowers. This afternoon, we shared the first mange tout of the season. The wild strawberries by the riding school are also doing well, and the jar of strawberries in vodka is filling up nicely.

I have been appreciating my hammock, which is on the grass in the shade, and so lovely and cool. I *almost* came inside to get a light blanket when I was in it a couple of days ago!
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Here are some things that have happened

♥Jun. 12th, 2017 // 03:59 pm
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Last Tuesday, it rained. It rained lots and lots and lots. Because he is a special snowflake, GB decided that it was nice weather for a walk and so Mike and I spent an hour or so walking around the stableyard in circles until the vet arrived and gave him some drugs.... I'm increasingly convinced that he gets gassy when the air pressure changes rapidly, because this is by no means the first time that he's had a colic in the pouring rain after a sunny spell. And then there was the time he did it in the snow.

Anyway, he was fine fairly soon after the vet did her thing, so no harm done! (It was also Little Quilt Club that day, so I missed going to that for the morning: bah. On the other hand, if I had gone then Mike wouldn't have had the car to go and collect people, so....)

While we were enjoying our lovely walk, our incoming visitors, who were cycling to see us, phoned to ask if we could possibly go and get them from where they'd spent the night. Once the vet had been, Mike did so, and shortly afterwards the rain (inevitably) stopped.

Still, we had a nice visit, including a trip to The Sportsman, which we'd never previously been to as we'd not got around to booking a table sufficiently far ahead. It was quite nice, but I'm not sure we'll be rushing back, and we weren't terribly impressed by the veggie-friendly-ness of the menu (which didn't have any veggie mains, although when we asked they were able to make two of the starters into mains).

We went to see a possibly horse (not Git Face; someone who managed to co-ordinate better with the owner's schedule got in before us and he's sold), who was terribly nervous of Jo. We put Jo back in the car, but he was still terribly nervous: not actually doing anything, but very tense. While the woman was riding him for us to watch, Mike said "I'm not sure I want to get on him," and I said "I'm not very sure that I do, either," so we said thank you and went home instead.

We've sent off some soil samples from our field for testing, in preparation for getting Mr Farmer to fertilise it when we've moved the boys up the hill to their summer quarters.

My hands seem to have got over their over-use, and I've been able to do some weeding and some sewing, which is a relief. I'm slightly concerned that the tomatoes in the polytunnel aren't setting fruit. We have been leaving one of the doors open, so there are insects in there, but it's possible that we need to open the other one for a few hours each day to get a bit more pollination going.

Today, we've had more visitors, but just for the afternoon. It turns out that iPads make small children much more easy to entertain than I had feared, and that running down our field is terribly fun but walking back up it in order to do so again is less interesting. Horses are a bit big and scary up close, though, which GB would probably be happy about if he realised: he was very grumpy this morning when I put his saddle on and rode him twice around the stableyard to check he would be up to a pony ride, but it turned out not to be necessary in the end.

I realise now that that's probably the last time he'll ever be ridden.
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Things we have done

♥May. 17th, 2017 // 08:11 pm
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The swallows have come back: we've seen lots of activity in the last few days, including plenty of flying in and out of the stable, so we didn't scare them off. Phew!

The bird 'flu restrictions are, finally, over, which is also a big phew. The ducks are very happy to be back in the garden, and it's meant that we could put the boys in the stableyard, which was getting rather overgrown, so that the field could have a rest. It's currently raining steadily, and set to keep doing so for a few more hours (another phew!), so hopefully the grass will be able to get a bit of growing done tomorrow without being instantly munched back to nothing.

It's been quite hot for the last couple of days, so the Jug Of Minty Water has reappeared in the fridge:

It was much appreciated this afternoon when I came in from weeding the jungle front bed, which is always a sod and got away from me rather this winter, not helped by the lack of ducks disturbing the weeds. It's taken me a week, but at least it's not quite a Forth Bridge job.

I finished off the quilt from my workshop:

("How did you get it done so quickly?" someone asked me at a fabric sale last weekend. "I've had my mother-in-law staying..." I replied. Then she mocked me because I was carrying bolts of fabrics in two solid greys and three beige patterns, so I picked up a plain teal as well and bought some just to show her!)

Does anyone fancy having a go at some orchid identification? I'm stumped by this one, which is potentially more troubling than it would otherwise be as it's in the field we borrow in the summer and I don't want to let the boys near it if it's rare!

It's probably just an odd common spotted, but.... It's not monkey or military, or an insect one. The pink buds make it look like a burnt, which I don't think we get around here and the petals aren't right for anyway. The petal colours look a bit like a chalk fragrant, which is local, but the shape is wrong. That pink border, and the lobe shape, have me quite stumped. It *might* be a lady, but I can't see any 'arms'. They do have the pink buds, and the two-lobes on the petals, though. Hmm. I might go and have another look at it tomorrow....
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All change

♥May. 10th, 2017 // 03:19 pm
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I've just got around to taking the LJ links out of my style sheet. I guess I've really given up on it, now! One of these days, I suppose I should switch to using a modern style: I'm still on a legacy LJ S2 style....

I had Quilt Club at weekend, including a class on Sunday (fortunately, it turned out that the speaker / tutor was far better at the latter than at the former) where we did a modern take on log cabin blocks.

This is what the class produced:

(Mine are the six entirely beige/grey ones about just over half way up the left hand side of the table. "That fabric's very... grey," said Teddy in disapproval when I showed it to him.)

I've done a bit more on it since, and am probably going to do a bit more again shortly. It's been quite interesting, and I'm enjoying it far more than 'proper' log cabin blocks on account of not having to be super careful about cutting the fabric to exactly the right size.

Mostly today I've been gardening. I've potted on almost all the tomatillos and most of the small chillis, and I've planted out the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers in the polytunnel:

(We did have a frost last night, but the thermometer in there recorded a low of 0.0C with the doors open, so they should be safe.)

Unfortunately, I did it a bit on autopilot and forgot that The Plan was to put one of each tomato variety outside thus leaving a grow bag spare for the big chillis, so they'll have to go in the conservatory instead. Which means that it's a good job that I didn't have enough compost to pot on all the tomatillos, as I'll need pots to do that!

Now that I've watered them all in, the polytunnel smells even more of wet dog than it did before (from the old carpet underneath): lovely! Hopefully the bits of the irrigation system that are on back order will arrive soon, so that I don't have to do too much hose-pipe watering.

(Jo was very helpful: after coming in the polytunnel once and knocking half a dozen plants over she decided that it wasn't a good place to be and scampered around the garden instead, where she's probably dug up something that she shouldn't have. On the plus side, she did hear a delivery driver that I didn't, so I was able to dash out and get the package. It's amazing how quickly the driver ran back down the path and through the gate when she bounded into the front garden barking.)

Jo and I are on our own today, as Mike's taken his mother to Belgium for an overnight stay. My grandad's had a partial hip replacement, the op seems to have gone well but he's quite confused and groggy. He should be ok as long as he doesn't pull any of his usual hospital tricks (eg, pulling his drip out, ordering taxis to collect him, attacking the nurses), but the chances of that aren't great given his past form.
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Bits and coughs

♥May. 4th, 2017 // 10:10 am
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My post-Eastercon stomach bug turned into a post-Eastercon cold, which several other people have also been complaining about.

I'm getting better, I think, but I've thought that several times now and then woken up the next day feeling grotty again. This has led to quite a lot of lying on the sofa feeling pathetic and not very much actual getting things done. The weather has cooperated with this: we've finally had some rain, after an entirely dry month, which is very good and means that the grass is finally growing in the field. This also means that the weeds are taking over the flower beds, and neither feeling grotty nor the weather is conducive to doing anything about them.

And we still haven't planted up the polytunnel, but we have an excuse in the form of the irrigation system, which should have been here yesterday but isn't yet, and which probably needs to be in place before the plants go in, to avoid disturbing or damaging them when we try to get it figured out.

GB also got a bit neglected in there: going away and then being ill meant that he didn't get ridden for about ten days in a row, and I'm afraid that that might have been too long for him. We've had three goes on him since, most recently this morning, and he's not doing very well. A couple of times, he's also nearly gone down on his bum when trotting down the hill at bed time. I'm going to wait for a warmer day and then have a go on him in the afternoon, when he's had plenty of time in the field to get rid of any stiffness, but I fear it won't be much better and it'll finally be time to officially retire him.

It's not been all bad, though: in there we've had some visitors, both overnight and for the day, been out to Margate to see an exhibition that wasn't as much as we'd expected about textiles but was quite interesting anyway and gave me a few things to think about (coffmayhaveboughtanewloomcoff). We also hosted various fannish crafty types for a day of crafty things, during which staggering amounts of tea were consumed (at least until we ran out) even when you allow for the fact that Mike and I kept forgetting to ask if more was wanted....

Coming up in the next week: Quilt Club, and a workshop, and then Mike's Mother is coming to stay. So nice and recuperative, then.

LJ has reset my cookie, and I'm presuming that logging in will require TOS agreement, so I've stopped reading there.
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Ah, yes, the English weather

♥Apr. 25th, 2017 // 03:09 pm

Mike's just come in from mowing the lawn to let me know that it's snowing.

Edit: Aaaand now hail!

Lovely and sunny on the other side of the valley, though.
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Ducks and flowers and decorators and seedlings

♥Feb. 20th, 2017 // 08:02 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1200575.html]

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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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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♥Jan. 18th, 2017 // 06:47 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1195675.html]

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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Ponies in the snow

♥Jan. 13th, 2017 // 02:59 pm
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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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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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♥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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It got a bit windy last night

♥Nov. 7th, 2016 // 03:52 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1185321.html]

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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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Where did the time go?

♥Oct. 25th, 2016 // 11:34 am
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1181287.html]

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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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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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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Sad pooch....

♥Jun. 7th, 2016 // 10:14 pm
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Those red and yellow crosses are lightning strikes. She's not having a good evening.

(And I'm on my third pair of trousers, for reasons of Rain.)
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♥May. 10th, 2016 // 08:30 pm
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I have, probably, finished the flying birds quilt, unless I decide that the actual birds need quilting. I think that they probably do, but that I'm bored of quilting and want to start my next project. Shall see how I feel about it in a few days.

I've also made my sister a bunny, as well as making another one and a little stuffed elephant for the Quilt Club sales table at next month's show.

Today, it has mostly been moist. I was fretting because GB needed riding and it was raining, but then I realised that I was going to be putting him in the field without his rug anyway (as it's so warm), so it didn't really matter if he got rained on when I was riding. Both horses are now thoroughly filthy, naturally.

When I took Jo out, I ummed and ahhed and eventually put a coat on. As I walked up the hill I decided that I'd made the right call, as I wasn't vastly too hot in it. Then I walked through a thermocline and felt like I'd entered a sauna: yuck.
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Invaded and battered....

♥May. 4th, 2016 // 04:53 pm
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We've had repeated incursions of visitors, some significantly more enjoyable than others, over the last week or so, which is why I've been so quiet.

On the plus side, Mike manfully removed the less enjoyable ones when he could, so I managed to get all of the background of the flying birds quilt quilted. Now I just need to decide what to do with the actual birds: the background is quite dense, so should I do something similar for the birds but in a different pattern, or should I leave them as oases of calm?

It has been very cold and miserable, but now it's nice and sunny: hopefully this means that our grass is finally going to start growing, because I'm getting quite worried about the state of the field (and, indeed, the prospects for the hay crop). This time last year, the boys were coming in when it was getting dark and only getting one hay net in the evening; this year, they're still on full winter rations and we're bringing them in before dinner because otherwise they're ravenous and grumpy when we let them in.

(We do at least think we have enough hay to last even with the late start, which is good as I've been getting friend-of-a-friend 'do you know anyone with any hay' queries and that suggests we'd struggle to get more. I'd much rather throw away (or onto the garden) half a dozen bales than be scrabbling around looking for more.)

(Actually, they're still pretty ravenous and grumpy, and would much rather stay in the stableyard and stuff their faces on slightly better grass for a while before they have their actual dinner. On Monday, Bugs was doing his usual trick of refusing to let Mike catch him and spooked GB, who ran off in panic. I was mid-way through putting GB's headcollar on at the time, and so unfortunately his pre-emptive wave of the back legs in Bugsy's direction got me instead. I have a truly *spectacular* bruise, and am finding walking up and down hills to be almost impossible, which is tricky around here. I--whisper it--skipped Pilates this morning, but at least now I have a good excuse for not going to London for a boring meeting tomrrow.)

Bugsy has had the vet to visit, trying to narrow down what's wrong with his leg (or rather, trying to confirm that the problem is what we think it is). He was a very good boy about it all, right up to the point where he suddenly decided that he'd had enough. She tried sedating him a couple of times, but he (quite politely) made it clear that he wasn't having any of it, so she's back again tomorrow for round two, which will (just in case) not involve the exact (long-shot) thing that she was trying to do when he stopped cooperating. In the mean time, he's getting to swan around in the field doing no work: I would say he's getting fat, but he's not because no bloody grass.

GB, on the other hand, has maybe gone slightly backwards in his spring-time improvement. I'm hoping that this is just because I was pushing him a bit too hard in my delight at his getting better, and a time when I'm not really able to ride seems to be a good one to test the theory!

Today, I have mostly been gardening: there were a batch of seedlings that needed potting on, and then I was running out of space on the conservatory shelves so I figured that, if I sat on the walls around the beds, I could plant out some bedding plants I'd grown that were getting a bit sad at being tuck inside. Then I thought I could probably manage some hoeing, but mostly ended up contorting into strange positions so that I could dig out blobs of grass from the flower beds: one of those 'it's lucky I'm strong' occasions, I think. Really need to do more weeding.

Text messages with my sister:
Sister: [a date, next summer, presumably for her wedding]
Me: Do you want a quilt?
Sister: What kind of quilt?
Me: One for your bed. If you do, I need to start it in plenty of time.
Sister: No thanks, I have a nice throw on my bed.
Me: Ok then, let me know what you do want.
Sister: Just having you there will be enough, we don't need presents.
[a short pause]
Sister: I really like that stuffed rabbit you made for mum.
Sister: Here's a photo of my living room decor.
Sister: Here's a close-up of my tartan feature wallpaper.
Me: Yes, I was already going to make you a rabbit for your birthday....
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Good animals!

♥Apr. 3rd, 2016 // 09:11 pm
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This morning, we went out for a little hack on the boys, and took Jo along. They all did wonderfully: GB only balked slightly as he went past a Scary Thing, Bugs didn't get himself worked up about anything and, just as we were nearly home, both of them went very calmly past a terrified lamb that was in the road, on the wrong side of the fence. This last was very fortunate, because Jo was Rather Interested, to the extent of starting to slink towards in until I got her attention and brought her back to heel. We're not sure if she was hunting or herding, but either way we're glad she stopped. (I sent Bad Farmer a text to let him know....)

This afternoon, we have been in the Potting Shed Conservatory: we've been a bit slack about starting new seeds in the propagator, so we're rather behind on last year. On the other hand, I think we were a bit early with some things last year, so it should be ok in the end.

This evening, just as I was on the phone to my mother, there was a big crash of thunder. A quick look at the rainfall radar and I said "I'll call you back" and dashed out to give the boys their supper before the rain arrived. Not that much rain, in the end, but lots of thunder and lightning, to Jo's misery. She's mostly calmed down now, but it's a measure of how worried she was that Mike's let her lie in front of our sofa, In The Way. Seems to have stopped now, thankfully.
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Catching up, yet again

♥Mar. 31st, 2016 // 06:50 pm
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Eastercon was good, except the bit where I woke up snotty one day and voiceless the next. I'm back to talking again, but still sniffly and with a bit of a sore throat. Still, an almost-entirely enjoyable con, other than a few wobbles that were either relatively minor or only short-lived. As I am weak-willed, I managed to get roped into doing things next year and the year after. As I am feeling crappy, I have failed to do most of the post-con jobs that need doing.

While we were in the area, we had dinner with my parents (but not my sister and other half: he tripped over one of the dogs, fell down the stairs, ripped the child gate (there to keep the dogs from going upstairs, um), and came to a halt on the back door, which is now needs new hinges. In one of those 'could have been worse' ways, he's got a broken wrist and toe, is black and blue, and only didn't break his hip because he had it replaced a year or so ago). Mike also had dinner and some time wandering around town with his mother, but I didn't make it along as they were running late and I had jobs to do by the time they went to eat.

We had a crappy journey up but a fairly good run coming home, so I suppose that it balances out. Mike finally gave in and got the Tom Tom app on his phone, so that I no longer have to spend the journey hitting refresh on Google Maps and trying to work around problems (which Google seems to be frankly crap at: there's no point telling me that Route 1 has a one hour delay and Route 2 a two hour one, tell me Route 3 that - gasp - leaves the motorway for a couple of junctions to avoid it!), although I did spend the trip home being an occasional stunt iPhone holder (proper one now acquired).

We don't seem to have suffered much damage from the storm, other than one of the stems of the elder on the drive having split and (fortunately) landed on the fence rather than the sitter's car. There are a lot of broken branches on the roads and in the woods, though. Animals all seem fine, although Bugs was a tiny wee bit lame (in the same leg again) today: worrying but probably not reliably enough present for a vet visit.

Today, my new iPhone arrived. I didn't make it to the Virgin shop at weekend, and I failed to order a new SIM yesterday, so that will be arriving tomorrow. It's a moot point anyway, though, as it turns out that I once enabled encryption of my iTunes phone backups and none of the passwords I'd expect to work did so. We're now, very tediously, doing an iCloud backup: it's been wandering between 19 and 22 hours remaining for about the last two hours. And, of course, once it's done and I've got the SIM, I'll have to re-download it, and then download all my apps. Mike's in work tomorrow, and if the process is at a stage where it makes sense to do so I may have him take the new phone and syphon off a bit of the office wifi.

I also made wild garlic pesto, so there's a stock of that in the freezer. There's also still masses of garlic left, and I'm vaguely wondering if I could bottle it instead of freezing.
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A text message exchange

♥Mar. 4th, 2016 // 04:19 pm
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Mother: What's it like down your way? We've had six inches already and it's still snowing heavily:


Also at the beach were lots and lots and lots of jellyfish, mostly around dinner plate sized but some more like side plates and some like serving platters:

We kept Jo away from them just in case.

This morning, I got a splinter from a pony treat. Sigh.
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The Archers

♥Mar. 2nd, 2016 // 07:05 pm
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[xpost |http://flick.livejournal.com/1144303.html]

Can I recommend The Ambridge Observer? And express (impressed) bogglement that the Helen Titchener Rescue Fund has raised £60k for Refuge?

(I'm eagerly awaiting an increased number of media pieces about Helen and Rob, because they'll signal Something Happening that will wrap the whole horrible thing up. I can barely stand to listen. At present, it looks like it might lead to Kirsty and Tom getting back together, as well, given they're the only people who're suspicious. Or Helen will die. One or the other.)

I had a fun drive home from Pilates today: about half way through the class, a hail shower made it suddenly dark enough to turn the lights on (this never happens, it's a very bright space), and then the motorway was a lovely, spray-filled mass of wet snow swirling about in the gusts of wind. And something thrown up by a lorry in front of me chipped the windscreen, although thankfully it's only tiny. The boys, Mike reports, were Unimpressed.
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If you go down to the...

♥Feb. 4th, 2016 // 02:55 pm
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First celandine of the season, up in the woods:

We also have a handful of bluebells showing flower spikes, but I think they'll be a little while yet before they're out.

The logging work is finally finished, in as much as they're not going to cut down any more trees: the chap is now off on holiday for a week, and then he's going to come back to finish moving logs around and make good the paths. We have no idea how much actual making good he's going to do, particularly to the more minor paths.

(I was a little annoyed with him today. I went up to the farthest reaches of the woods, where he's only been working for the last week or so (when it's been fairly dry, so he's not made too much of a mess with his tires). He's not yet moved the logs from the work site to the big stacks, so they're in little piles scattered around amongst the (widely spaced) trees. And there are four little piles over about two hundred yards of the very obvious path, so that you have to scramble over brambles instead. It's not his job to keep the unofficial paths clear, but it was rather thoughtless of him to block one of the few non-muddy paths.)

There were midges in the stableyard this evening. Not right.
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Good / bad

♥Jan. 20th, 2016 // 04:31 pm
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Last night, I remembered to turn off the water to the outside taps and drain the pipes before putting the foam cover back on the exposed bit of pipe: we decided that this was probably a good thing to have done when it hit -7C in the late evening and didn't budge until morning.

This afternoon, on the way to ride the boys, we went to fill up their water buckets (we'd not even tried in the morning, knowing that the tap would be frozen, and probably the hose as well even though it had been in the barn). I turned the outside water back on, and the pipe went 'splurt': we're now very glad that I turned the water off, else it would have been splurting away from the time it defrosted until, well, whenever we'd noticed it....

A bit of duct tape proved to be enough of a bodge that we could fill the buckets up, and the plumber is (miraculously) coming at 10am in the morning, but we didn't manage to fit the riding in as well.
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I didn't know that

♥Jan. 19th, 2016 // 02:16 pm
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It turns out that my method of walking in order to avoid slipping in mud is not the same as my method of walking to avoid slipping on ice. Which is annoying when the surface changes from one to to other within the space of a stride.

On the plus side, there was much more of the latter than the former in the woods today, so neither of us got too muddy when we went out for our walk.

(Jo is loving this weather. The boys not so much, especially when their water buckets freeze overnight: -8C.)
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It snowed!

♥Jan. 17th, 2016 // 10:35 am
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[xpost |http://flickgc.livejournal.com/1134172.html]

Well, a little bit:

Now, should I be breaking the ice on the fish pond, or will they all be happily asleep and not bothered by it?
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♥Jan. 15th, 2016 // 09:36 pm
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At least it's stopped raining, and the sun has come out! I would express the hope that the kitchen floor will now manage to remain non-filthy for more than a day at a time, except that the logging in the woods has now come over to our side so the entire place is a swamp and there's no way at all of keeping Jo clean. At least now she might have a chance to dry off so that I can brush her?

Mike keeps telling me that it's not actually all that cold, for the time of year, but then he watches in amazement at the number of layers I take off when I get back into the house. Yesterday morning, when we rode, there was more frost in the school when we finished than when we started. Tomorrow, I think we'll be riding in the afternoon: there was ice on the water troughs when I went out a couple of hours ago, so I think the school will be like concrete first thing.

(In fact, it isn't all that cold, but the wind is bitter and it's been so mild that it's rather a shock to the system.)

I'm keeping GB wrapped up well, and (on the basis of sticking my hand under the rugs to see how warm they feel) am keeping him at about the same temperature as Bugs by layering his rugs up. He's actually been doing really well with his leg recently, which I think means that it's not the cold that's a problem but the standing in his stable for longer overnight. Very pleased that it's dried out enough that they can go in the field again.

We've even managed to do a bit in the garden: the wisteria and budlia are pruned, and the fedge has had a hair cut and some tidying up now that the lack of leaves has revealed the places I made mistakes when I tied it into shape over the summer. We (in the distinctly non-royal sense) do have some digging to do, however: my new trees have arrived and are waiting in the garage.

(I am, and have been for a week or so, generally a bit under the weather: vaguely upset tummy, tired, feeling a bit feeble. I'm blaming that plus a new iPhone game on the lack of posting.)
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♥Jan. 4th, 2016 // 03:02 pm
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We've had a lovely New Year, but Mike is somewhat sick of cooking, and I am somewhat sick of washing up, running the dishwasher, and doing laundry.... I'm also incredibly knackered, but we're going out to see ISIHAC this evening, so that should be fun.

It's been rather wet, which is annoying: we've had to keep the horses in for the last couple of days, and I suspect that the next couple will be the same. They aren't very impressed by this, as you can probably imagine, but it really is horrible out there. The standing water in the stableyard yesterday was very nearly deep enough for the ducks to swim in. (It could, of course, be Much Worse.)

In the ongoing drama that is gategate, Mrs Next Door phoned a few evenings ago to ask for help: someone had re-hung Mrs Top Of The Hill's PGATRTIOTTAPINUTR, and then either the same or a different person had tied it shut with a knotted piece of baling twine. I drove up there with scissors to let her out and then, having thought about it a little more, drove back up with a chain and padlock to make sure it didn't happen again. It had been off the hinges still a couple of hours before, so the chances of two different people being involved are slight. That means that either someone helpfully put it back as a favour to Mrs Top Of The Hill and then idiotically tied it shut or they went to a huge amount of effort in an attempt to inconvenience Mrs Top Of The Hill (which failed because she's not here). It's all very odd. Anyway, I emailed her and told her what I'd done and she said thanks and she'll sort it when she gets back.
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♥Dec. 21st, 2015 // 03:32 pm
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We went outside this morning to lovely clear skies, with just a few fluffy little white clouds. Sadly, by the time the sun actually got to the bottom of the valley, after we'd finished riding, the clouds had increased in number but it was still quite nice.

Then it rained a bit, and there was a nice rainbow. Then it got grey and there was another little bit of rain, so we got slightly damp on while we were walking Jo. By the time we got back from our walk, the wind was picking up a bit.

By the time we brought the boys in (early, for the farrier), things were pretty much horizontal: both the rain and, when I dashed up to re-assemble the electric fence*, several of the fence posts.


* It's getting soggy up there, and the first (and steepest) gateway is really quite horrible, so we temporarily moved the fence so that they could leave the field through the other gate.

As seen in The Horse Next Door's field: a primrose. Flowering.
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♥Nov. 24th, 2015 // 05:45 pm
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It's been a bit damp, today. It was supposed to stop by about 10am, but actually we had very heavy, soaking drizzle until about noon and then occasional showers for the rest of the day.

Mike was in France for the first part of the day, so I was on my own doing the horses (and gossiping with Mrs Next Door; she really needs to give up a bad job and find a new bloke, poor thing). When I'd done, and had lunch, and the rain was showing no signs of stopping I brought the horses back in and fed them hay: the field's getting a bit worryingly sodden, and it's very muddy near the gate, so it seemed like a good plan. Mike's in London tomorrow, but on Thursday I think we'll have to rig up a fence across the middle so that they have to stay at the top.

After he got back, we had a quick ride: I don't like having them cooped up inside, and if we'd left it until tomorrow then I'd have had to ride both of them. GB was a good boy for a rather weary Mike. Bugs was being a good boy for me (if his usual lazy self at first) but then, between the first and second canters, suddenly started tossing his head about as though he was really irritated. If it hadn't been November, I'd have said he had a horsefly on his face. As it is November, the only thing I can think of is that it had just started to rain a bit, and either he really doesn't like working in the rain or he thought the drops were flies. Either way, I decided safe was better than sorry and cancelled the second canter.
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♥Nov. 22nd, 2015 // 11:08 pm
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It's been a bit parky this weekend. We had a little sleet on Saturday morning, but nothing more. We've had some very hard frosts (-3C and below), though (note to self: must get a cover for the stableyard tap...), and this morning Mike came back from having a look at the school with a shaking head, so we went for a little hack instead: lovely morning, very cold but sunny and not a bit of wind, so it was lovely. Particularly on the way back, when most of the ice on the road had melted, so the boys were a lot happier. Jodie, of course, was deliriously happy and had a lovely time charging around smelling all the exciting things.

On the plus side, it's going to warm up tonight. On the minus side, that's because it's going to rain all night and most of the morning, which isn't going to do the field any good at all. It's already looking pretty grotty.

Last night, we went to see (some of) the Oysterband doing Oysters 3, which was a mix of acoustic back catalogue and (variably) amusing anecdotes about the history of the band (turns out that they met and got together in the pub that was our polling station for the general election! We knew they were local, but not that they were that lovcal). Great fun, I would thoroughly recommend trying to get along if it hadn't been the last night of the tour.
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Walking in the rain

♥Nov. 19th, 2015 // 03:08 pm
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Last Christmas, I got Mike a voucher for a half-day falconry thingie at Leeds Castle (him to do and me to watch), and today (having planned to do it a few weeks ago then cancelled as Mike's foot was sore) we finally got around to going along. It was just us, so we got a lot of attention from the falconer!

(The falconer went to a falconry display when she was ten and got hooked. By the time she was thirteen, she'd convinced her parents that this really was what she was going to do with her life, and got her first hawk, which is the one Mike was mostly using today. After spending six years volunteering at various falconry places, she finally got an actual paying job in the field!)

First we met all the birds, and learnt various interesting things (New World vultures are a type of stork; in the wild birds of prey take about eight months to moult, as they have to keep flying in order to eat, but if you put them in an aviary and give them loads of food then they get it finished in about four; they mostly feed their birds on day-old chicks because the yolk sacks are full of healthy goodness; hand-reared birds tend to be very vocal), then we went out with a Harris Hawk for a walk through the woods. He was in his teens, and knew exactly what his job was: fly from tree to tree keeping an eye on the humans, not getting too far away, and every couple of hundred yards swoop down to eat the bit of chicken that the falconer had put on Mike's glove. He was very impressive!

(Before we headed off he went and perched on the scales for a weight check: too low and he won't have enough energy to work that day, too high and he won't be interested enough in food to cooperate, particularly with a stranger.)

Every so often, he'd see (or think he'd seen) something to hunt, and he'd go off into the undergrowth: didn't get anything, but a few days ago he got an enormous rabbit and, last year, several pea-chicks. He's not allowed to fly near the peacocks any more.

It was rather a damp day (although I think less so there than at home), so the walk wasn't as long as it usually would be: he was getting soggy feathers and starting to struggle slightly, so we paused at his dinner-eating-place (the non-moulting birds are taken to the same spot each day for their dinner. It's always somewhere nice and open with a distinctive view (in this case of the castle), so that the bird can find it easily. If a bird ever gets lost, the first place the falconers check is the dinner place). He got two chicks today: usually he only gets one, but he'd been working and would need the extra energy to dry himself out, and wasn't working tomorrow so wouldn't be overweight for that. I feel as though I have a greater insight into the food habits of ballet dancers now!

Rather than send us off an hour early, the falconer put him back on his perch and got the buzzard out instead. After being weighed, the buzzard had a little homing beacon cable-tied to her leg, Just In Case she decided to go soaring off on her own, but actually it was still damp enough that she stayed close to the ground. We went to the area where they do their falconry displays, and Mike flew her a few times (bigger bits of chicken!) but she wasn't really very impressed with the weather!

Moving pictures! )

After that, we had a quick lunch in the coffee shop, a brief walk around the outside of the castle (we saw a pair of kingfishers flying over the moat underneath us, and one of them left a little trail of bubbles when it scooped something out of the water!), a slightly longer walk through the grounds to the car park, and then came home to Release The Hound. I would have quite liked to see the inside of the castle and the historic dog collar exhibition, but we don't like leaving her for a very long time, and we're unlikely to go back, as we've seen pretty much everything except those two bits and I can't imagine that they're £24-per-person good!

After which I went for another damp walk in the woods, this time with a different mighty hunter.

(Actually, the sitter took that last Saturday after another damp walk. Isn't she adorable?)

I drove up to the woods, because I was feeling knackered and it was wet, so I went in a bit I'd not visited for a week or so. The loggers have been very busy, but I really hope that they're going to put the bridleway back into some sort of order before they leave, or at least smooth out the foot-deep tire tracks that cut across it:

I had at least half an hour to sit down after that before we went to get the boys in, slightly early as the farrier was visiting. They are disgustingly muddy: we turned the hose on their legs to make it less horrible for him! Tomorrow, we're supposed to be having a riding lesson but the weather forecast isn't great. Tonight, they're wearing their thin cotton summer rugs. Tomorrow night, they'll be in their thickest winter ones....
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♥Nov. 5th, 2015 // 10:58 am
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It's a bit soggy out there. I know this because I just went outside to bring the boys in.... GB was being a G B, because he was wet, so there was a fair bit of charging around making a mess of the field and stableyard. Sigh.

This morning, they had the vet: time for GB's regular blood test. He was actually pretty good today, only barged me into the wall a little bit. Bugs had one as well, in the end: he wees an awful lot, and this morning I went into his stable to find that the entire bed, other than a tiny bit in one corner, was wet, which was annoying and much worse than even he usually is. When I mentioned it to the vet, she suggested checking his kidney function, which seemed like a plan. He was fortunately pretty relaxed for it.

(New vet. The vet who used to have us on her weekly round has moved away. The new one seems nice enough, though, and managed to get the vein first time on both of them, which is always a plus in my book. Slightly annoying, though, as I'd wanted to talk about GB seeming slightly feeble lately and I knew with a new vet I'd just get a bemused look and a "well, he /is/ quite old". We did have the traditional "He's *how* old? He's still working? OMG!" conversation, though, which always makes me smile.)

I've even remembered to turn the new Aga up ready for making my dinner, go me!
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Last day of summer....

♥Oct. 4th, 2015 // 06:20 pm
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(Probably. We've got a wet few days coming up, and then possibly the first Atlantic storm of the season after that. Still, it has been a lovely couple of weeks! (Comparatively) masses of people in the woods this afternoon, taking advantage of it.)

With the leylandii were taken out, and even though the new fence line is slightly further out than the old one was, the drive is suddenly much wider, which will be handy. Today, in between adding compost to the soil and planting a mixed bag of blue and white bulbs where they used to be, we made it wider still by pulling up the layer of grass that's grown along the edge of it. Should make it much handier when we have people to stay, although I still doubt I'll be up for reversing out of the garage with another car on the drive!

I got some garden-ready pansy plug plants the other day, and I've put them into the big empty patch in front of the house that the tomatoes left behind. I'm trying to decide when I should plant out the ornamental cabbages that I started in pots from seed: the packet, and internet, are somewhat non-specific about what constitutes being ready for it. Maybe next week. We're still picking tomatillos, and the plants are still flourishing, so they must be a bit more hardy than the tomatoes, the remaining outdoor ones of which have all gone manky and black. Randomly, a teeny tiny aubergine has appeared on the grafter plant, which we gave up for dead a month or so back!

And I've ordered my sweet pea seeds for next year, so those can be started off in the conservatory soon. I caved in and bought a rootrainer tray: although loo rolls stuck on top of small pots do the job, they're top heavy so they're forever falling over.
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How do we stand the excitment?

♥Oct. 3rd, 2015 // 03:23 pm
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This morning, we went to the Country Store, because they were having a sale on horse and pet stuff. The car is now full of sacks of feed, which we keep forgetting to take out (Edit: yay, got most of them out. Damn, forgot to get the last one...).

This afternoon, we went to the opening of the new village hall. Unfortunately, we only arrived fifteen minutes late rather than, say, forty: we were early enough to get the speeches and the Cutting Of The Giant Ribbon by An Old Lady Who Was Born In The Village And Never Left, but too late to get the free fizz.

It does look very nice inside, though, and the new shop is hugely better than the old one (admittedly, that was in a small shipping container, so it's not much of a leap. You could now go in there and leave with the ingredients of a basic meal, though, and they had some nice-looking small-producer frozen ready meals). I picked up a leaflet for the WI, and I'm glad that I did: I've been thinking about going for ages, and meant to go last month but didn't because I had to pick Mike up from the station. Instead, I decided that I was definitely going to go this month but, as I've learnt that it's the AGM, I think I might wait until November!

The new fences are all done, and the dodgy gates fixed, and everything is nice and tidy other than the huge piles of Stuff To Burn, which we wouldn't let them set fire to as what little wind there is has been going towards next door. The forecast for tomorrow looks good for us having a bonfire, though. Igor's Minions are very hard workers, and very nice chaps; their English has vastly improved over the last two years, too, so no more three-way phone calls via Igor. I'd recommend them it would be useful to anyone reading this.

It was foggy this morning (at least that means we didn't get a frost, unlike yesterday morning), so we put off riding until this evening, much to Bugsy's disgust ("If you're going to make me come in from the field then I expect my dinner to be on the table in the bucket waiting for me then I get here!"). They were both good boys, though.

Actually, one vague bit of excitement: I had an annoyed text recently from Not Very Next Door Neighbour, complaining that the hunt had been up near her house and she'd not been warned. Today, though, I had a another text saying that it wasn't actually The Hunt, it was a disgruntled former huntsman, recently taken to court for illegal hunting, who'd been given permission by Bad Farmer to go on his land. All very mysterious. Apart from anything else, where did he get the hounds?
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Ok, ok, I get the message....

♥Sep. 23rd, 2015 // 02:57 pm
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This morning, I went out to do the boys to find that Bugs had busted out of his stable and was merrily stuffing his face on grass. Ok, ok, you can start having morning haynets again, boys!

I had a rather uncomfortable pilates class, because I kept getting cramp in my feet. I mean, I always do at least once a session, but it was particularly bad today. I suspect that this is because my boots are still damp, despite having spent the night in front of the Aga, from when I walked Jo yesterday: it was so wet that there was water running down my legs inside my boots. They're back in front of the Aga now, and at least it's a nice day.

Very pleased with GB this morning: he'd been a bit stiff the other week, which we put down to cold and damp, but then better last time he was ridden, which we figured was because there had been two warm, sunny days. I thought I'd better jump on him for fifteen minutes today to get him moving, but actually he was fine, so hurrah. Guess he must have just knocked something in the field when he was stiff.
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♥Sep. 18th, 2015 // 08:51 pm
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We had a weather-induced power cut last night, which kept me awake rather: I'm not sure if the battery is dead in my clock and I woke up when the power went out (which seems more likely) or if I just happened to wake and look at my clock the second the battery did die, but either way it was 2:30am and I spent the rest of the night being woken up by the weather and vaguely worried about freezers and suchlike.

Today, though, I have made apple butter: no idea if it's going to have worked, but the spoon tasted pretty good. Something of a faff peeling and coring any quantity of wild apples, even if I did pick the biggest of the batch, so if it is good I might use shop apples in future. Of course, then it probably won't taste the same.

I'm starting to think that the boys have got it in for me. Given that they've stopped coming up to the gate at coming in time, Mike and I have been taking it in turns to go and get one of them (usually Bugs, as he's more likely to wander over in search of treats), after which the other will follow up the hill to the gate and stand to be caught by the other of us. For about the last ten days (not that I'm counting), they've been within about twenty yards of the gate on Mike's days and right at the other side of the field on mine....

Currently on the dining room table: a box of invitations for the House of Lords thing, which need to be in the post on Monday. The curses of having Nice Handwriting. I just hope my wrists are up to it. I've even got my fountain pen out!
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Mostly sewing

♥Sep. 14th, 2015 // 08:14 pm
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Muffins! Mike made fresh muffins! Lovely as it has been to have the Aga back in order to toast the ones that have been in the freezer for several months, I do have to say: muffins!

Today, I have mostly been sewing (cushions to match latest quilt), with occasional weaving (nothing exciting, I just picked up my hand loom a little while back when watching a film, and find myself keeping doing so) and attempting to explain VAT rules on which I myself am a little shaky* to someone who cares deeply but knows nothing about VAT.

* On the plus side for my ego, minus side for Getting Things Done, when I phoned HMRC the chap said "Oooh, I dunno..." as well.

(I would post a picture, but I still need to do a bit of hand finishing of the cushions, and anyway I can't face wrangling with Scrapbook, which I suspect is Still Broken for the iPhone app.)

It rained. Then it stopped. Then it started again. Then the sun came out. Then it stopped for a bit. Then the sun came back out. Then it rained. One of those days, although it was quite nice when the sun was out. One of those dog walks, in fact: if I *hadn't* gone out in my long coat, it totally would have persisted down. It's almost like I was doing a public service is getting over-heated!
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♥Sep. 5th, 2015 // 10:28 am
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We've got a fire lit, this afternoon. It's been grey and chilly most of the day, and tonight is forecast to be clear, so we've brought the potted plants into the conservatory and put the heater in there on the temperature switch. (The actual forecast is 8-feels-like-6, but when it's clear and calm we're often a good five degrees colder than the forecast, down here in the valley.)

Fortunately, Mike stopped off to collect the boys' rugs on his way home from collecting the new car, so GB can have a slightly warmer one than he's had the last couple of nights.

And, this evening, Aga roast chicken for tea!
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It wasn't forecast to rain today

♥Sep. 2nd, 2015 // 04:12 pm
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But it did, starting with 'just as Mike dropped me off on his way out to look at cars so that I could walk home with the pooch'. I'm starting to get suspicious of this.

(It's been raining on and off all afternoon since, although it's been sunny in between and often at the same time. We just saw a fab rainbow, and can now confidently state that there's a pot of gold in Milo's field. Wonder why the metal detector guys didn't find it when they visited?)

The looking-at-cars wasn't hugely successful: the second one had already been sold, and Mike couldn't fact driving the Little Red Thing to the third. The first was a bit overpriced but I suspect it's the one we'll end up with unless something else comes on the market in the next couple of days (assuming, that is, that we are up for a new car: we still haven't heard officially).

I spent an hour this afternoon removing the seeds from a large pile of tomatoes, to see if the reduced requirement to reduce the resulting passata (try saying that six times...) was worth the effort. I've concluded that it wasn't, and that tomato juice is a poor hand moisturiser. After I did so, I read an email conversation on the @@ list about what a terribly year it's been for tomatoes, so I'm not sure what we've done wrong!

We've put (very thin) rugs on the boys this evening, as we're forecast to have a cool clear night so it'll probably get a bit nippy here. I'm not sure if this counts as the first time of the season or not: did the end of July count as the last frost of last winter or the first frost of this?
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Quiet day

♥Aug. 28th, 2015 // 08:10 pm
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Today, it only rained while we were walking the dog. Inevitably. Not very much, though.

Other than starting some seeds off (phlox and penstemon and scabeous), I have mostly been plotting a quilt. I think I've decided what it's going to be, or at least narrowed it down to two options.

I've also been wondering what one wears to an evening reception at the House of Lords. I'm torn between beautiful green velvet New Look frock (although it will need taking in) and one of my bog standard floaty-trouser-and-top combinations. Anyone know how warm it's likely to be in there on a November evening? On the one hand, old stone building where people wear fur robes over suits, on the other, the people wearing them are mostly old!
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Guess what?

♥Aug. 26th, 2015 // 02:58 pm
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Only 30mm of rain so far today, and it seems to have stopped for now!

(Dept of It Could Be Worse: heard on the radio about a place in Australia where they were evacuating people downstream of dams after 30cm in one day. Poor people.)

Off to Pilates this morning (the drive down the M20 was not nice due to masses of spray, particularly the idiot on the motorbike weaving through the lanes without his lights on), where I actually struggled a bit with some of it. This may be a sign that I need to start doing a bit at home as well.
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