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In very much other news...

♥Oct. 15th, 2017 // 06:43 pm
Is it just me that's feeling faintly worried about the whole Harvey Weinstein thing?

It does, very much, sound as though the man is thoroughly unpleasant, and will in the fullness of time be prosecuted and convicted for the things that he's being accused of.

But he's been thrown out of BAFTA and the Academy Whose Full Name I Forget, and they're talking about stripping him of his honours, when that hasn't yet happened.

What about that innocent until proven guilty thing? Look at the whole Bramall / Brittan thing: it seems unlikely, but what if the outcome of this is the same?
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Pooch update

♥Oct. 15th, 2017 // 05:57 pm
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We took Jo to the vet this afternoon, for a check up and to get the lab results.

The nipple is healing beautifully, but she has managed to get a bit of an infection in the wound on her side, so now she has antibiotics. We're carrying on with Pooch Corset for another day, after which it will hopefully have dried up and we can switch to a t-shirt instead to let it get more air while still being a bit protected. She's going back on Friday to have the stitches out, unless something else happens before then. Although it's not healing quite as well as the vet would like, it is knitting together ok, so it shouldn't be a problem as long as we can stop her from getting at it.

The lab results were about the best we were hoping for: the lumps did have (cancerous) mast cells, but the one on the nipple is definitely low-grade and the one on her side probably is as well (based on the type of lump it was, as it wasn't possible to test it properly. There is a test that will give more definitive results, but it's £200: we're thinking about it). On the down side, best practice is to remove 10mm of skin all around a mast cell tumour, and they didn't do that much at the time; opening her back up is an option but I don't think we're going to do it.

The vet did suggest an option of doing an ultrasound scan all over her abdomen, to look for signs that it's spread internally, but she wasn't really pushing us to do it given that the chest x-rays were clear. T'internet also tells me that lymph node biopsies are also an option, which I might mention when we're there next week.

So, she's doing ok from this time around, and we're probably just going to carry on as usual, running to the vet whenever we find any kind of lump on her.
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Jo Jo

♥Oct. 14th, 2017 // 09:13 pm
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Jo is, if not back in her Pooch Pants, currently wearing a tasteful Pooch Corset:



She's been scratching (with her back leg: cone-of-shame / inflatable collar is no use) at the (decidedly Franken-pooch-esque) wound on her side, where they took out the unexpected second lump. It's in a more likely to be stretched place than the nipple, so it's got lovely big external sutures sticking out, and is obviously itching her much more than the actual nipple (which is now practically healed, all with internal stitches). She'd managed to get at it enough to form a scab yesterday, and this morning she dislodged that and it was bleeding a bit. Mike suggested a bit of vet wrap (elasticated, self-sticking-but-not-sticky bandage: bloody marvellous stuff) around her middle with a gamgee dressing under it, and when I eventually got worried enough to try it I was surprised to find that it's mostly stayed in place, rather than sliding forwards/backwards as I was expecting.

Still, back at the vet tomorrow for a check up, so I'll see what she says. I fear it's going to end up with a nasty scar, but it's not like it'll be visible through the fluff.

I was a little annoyed to find that our pica-prone resident rat* had eaten chunks out of half the roll of vet wrap, though. Must check the other rolls in the morning....

* Hoof oil brush, feed bucket but not the feed it contained, feed bucket cover but ditto....
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Squish squash

♥Oct. 14th, 2017 // 03:34 pm
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The butternut harvest is now in:



I suspect we'll be giving a few away!

(And I *really* want to go at it with a marker pen and draw faces on them all....)
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Jodie news

♥Oct. 9th, 2017 // 02:32 pm
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Jodie's x-rays were (allowing for caveats about her being an old lady) clear, which is a relief.

While they were taking them, one of the nurses found another lump on her belly, which is a little worrying. Lump and nipple have been removed, and she's waking up from the anaesthetic.

I'll go and get her in a couple of hours, and then we just have to wait a week for the lab results....
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Expensive pooch....

♥Oct. 6th, 2017 // 08:07 pm
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As part of her ongoing quest to be the most expensive pooch in the village, I took her off to the vet this morning to have her boobs felt.

I noticed a week or so back that one of her nipples was hugely larger than the others, and it still is, so we thought I'd better get it checked out.

The vet was both worried and reassuring: Jo's now booked in to have it taken off and have chest x-rays, but it does just seem to be the nipple involved, so it should be easy to make sure it's all removed.

And then we'll have to wait for the lab results to see what it actually is.

Fingers crossed on Monday.
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Horses

♥Sep. 30th, 2017 // 08:04 pm
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We were going to go and look at a very nice-sounding horse yesterday, but then the Riding Instructor Spy Network reported that the (devastated to be having to sell his beloved horse because of a relationship breakdown) 'owner' used to work for one of these lovely people, and that his former boss is out of jail and back living in the same village as the horse. So we cancelled. Sigh.

In better news, GB's been very awkward about taking his pills lately but a little juggling of how he has his feed seems to have fixed it: he's cleaned his feed bucket at both meals today. I'm a little worried about this year's hay, though: they've both been leaving a lot of it this week (two different bales of hay), which I had put down to there being plenty of grass. It was a different bale today, though, and they've eaten it all up. I hope we've not got many dodgy ones.

I've been doing a bit more of the hand quilted cushion, so I guess that I am going to finish it. Didn't manage very much today, because my hands are bad, but I *think* that's more because of using scissors to cut up an enormous pile of chillies to make jelly from rather than the sewing. I got Mike to do half the chillies, but probably should have had him do all of them.

(I've also made apple and sloe jelly: Mrs Farmer thrust a huge pile of apples on me last week when I was at the house, so we didn't even have to go scrumping on the common to get supplies. Gosh, you get a much better set with cooking apples than with random wild ones!)
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Spam

♥Sep. 26th, 2017 // 08:41 pm
Mike has super spam filters, which mean that very little of the stuff gets through to my gmail account.

Gmail also has super spam filters, which means that even less of it gets into my inbox.

There are currently 21 messages in my gmail spam folder (which auto-deletes after a month). Thirteen of them are fake 'here's your invoice' or 'you haven't yet paid your invoice' notices, of which four or five actually did get to my inbox, and they *all* claim to be from someone called Mike Barraclough (but are coming to more than one of my addresses).

Is anyone else getting them?
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Quilty things

♥Sep. 25th, 2017 // 02:47 pm
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I finished a new quilt last week. It was quite fiddly to make:


I'm still not sure about the innermost bit of the central star, but ah well.

At weekend, I went on a workshop organized by Quilt Club, on making wholecloth quilts (the ones that are just a single piece of fabric, with all the design in the quilting), although we aimed smaller and went for cushion covers. I'd never done any hand quilting before, and most of the day was taken up with learning about the design elements, thinking of a design, drawing it out on paper, and transferring it to the fabric.

That's my excuse, anyway:


I'm still undecided about whether I'm actually going to finish it or if I'd rather just take out the bit I've done and do it on the machine!
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Wedding anniversary

♥Sep. 15th, 2017 // 07:13 pm
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Today was out wedding anniversary.

I made Mike a card:


(I've only had the book on paper quilting for a year, after all!) Worth clicking to embiggen, ifIdosaysomyself.

Mike very kindly did all the mucking out.

(While he did so, I took Jo to the vet. Over the last week or so, she's been occasionally yelping or whining, but it's got more frequent and last night she had a particularly bad spell that involved her making a noise for a minute or so. The vet couldn't find anything particularly, but did think she was maybe not *quite* so keen to take her weight on one of her front legs. It may also be a neck thing, although she did have a good feel around there. Short walks and more painkiller than usual for a week, and we'll see how she goes on.)

We had a quiet lunch at home.

(During which I took some ibuprofen for a headache and Mike had a migraine pill)

After lunch, and Jo's walk, we headed off to darkest Sussex to look at a horse.

He's called Thunder Joe, a name which is definitely going to be unused in full.

We liked him enough to ride, and it seemed to go quite well.

Even if it did hail while I was on him, and we were in a field with overly-long grass, which is one of my least favourite places to ride.

We'll go back and see him again next week, with riding instructor, using a school that they can borrow just down the road.

If riding instructor answers her text messages....

Afterwards, we headed home again.

I'm not sure how the day has been utterly exhausting, but we're both worn out now!

We had a lovely special anniversary dinner...

(Party-left-over soup from the freezer, and the other half of the loaf of bread that neither of us ate much of for lunch

...and now we're on the sofa with a bottle of wine.

Thankfully, Mike did a run to France yesterday!
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Smart duck

♥Sep. 12th, 2017 // 07:27 pm
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When we went to put the animals to bed (before dinner! The nights are drawing in.), Eskarina was sitting on her own by the pond. She looked up and wiggled a bit when I walked over to get the feed dish, but she didn't jump up and head for bed, which was ominous.

I gave Mike the rugs I was carrying (most of the boys rugs are off being cleaned at the moment, but their two thinnest ones go in our washing machine ok so I took advantage of a sunny, breezy day to de-stink them) and went to pick her up, which is when I realised that she had a piece of nylon thread wrapped around one of her legs.

Fortunately, she didn't wiggle while I untangled her, and even more fortunately she hadn't been struggling enough to have actually cut all the way through the skin. As soon as I'd finished, though, she was off with a flap of her wings and a squawk.

It got me thinking, though (after I'd picked up the rest of the thread and thrown it away): it doesn't really surprise me that, say, elephants go to people when they need medical help*: they're smart. Similarly, dogs do it because they're tame. Ducks, though, are neither of those things. My runners are fairly domesticated, but anyone who's ever seen the reaction when I have to pick one up knows that they're not at all tame**.

Mike pointed out that birds are quite smart for brain size, and it's true that I'd be fairly unsurprised if, say, a corvid that I'd been feeding did the same thing. On the other hand, I'd be completely astonished if the robin, who follows me around when I'm carrying the duck / wild bird food, nagging me to hurry up with it, did the same thing.

* Elephants also, I just heard on the World Service, go into stealth mode when in danger from people: they hide out during the day and travel fast at night if they know that there are poachers in the area. There are now plans to look out for this on the researchers' movement trackers, so that they can alert the rangers to be on the look out for trouble when they see that sort of movement pattern!

** Except Esme, she was fairly tame, poor little thing.
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The boys are back

♥Sep. 11th, 2017 // 01:29 pm
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I have a bean-pod-cut, sustained while helping Mike prep dinner veg last night. It's a bit like a paper cut, but more absurd.
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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 well...

♥Sep. 7th, 2017 // 07:37 pm
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The vet says "no".

Back to the adverts we go....
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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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Some less whingy things

♥Aug. 25th, 2017 // 07:31 pm
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- A few days ago, I went into the pantry to see if we had a spare bag of self-raising flour. There was a bag of flour, so I picked it up to see what it was (strong bread, as it happens) and noticed that the corner had been chewed away. Nothing else seemed to have been nibbled, and a trap overnight produced one of the lovely, sleek, glossy mice with which we are blessed (no more since). When we moved in, it was Policy not to put nibblable things into that store room, and I may need to go back and have a rearrange!

- Yesterday, the outdoor plumber came to try and find the leak in our water pipe. The blokes from the water company, having dug a hole by the meter, said it was about eight metres away by the house. Several holes later, and having come back this morning, he found and fixed the leak. It was, oh, at least a foot from the meter and he couldn't quite understand how the water company guys hadn't found it....

- It turns out that dahlias make nice cut flowers and last reasonably well, which is good: the garden's a bit poor for cutting flowers at this time of year, other than the glads.

- About a week ago, I bought (on Amazon) Mike a fairly niche book (heard about it on R4). Yesterday (ditto), I bought the new KLF JAMs book, 2023. This evening, while looking for present ideas for Mike, I went back to the page for the first book to look at the 'people who bought this book also bought' section and found 2023 on the first page of suggestions. Apparently they're *both* pretty niche books....
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In chirpier news

♥Aug. 19th, 2017 // 10:19 am
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The day after we got back from Helsinki, I was mucking out Bugsy's stable when I heard a lot of chirping and noticed that there were swallows flying around.

Having raised their first clutch, they've built a second nest. This one is in the rafters above the tack room (and, thankfully, above an open area of floor rather than anything that will take harm from having bird poo all over it!), which they're accessing by flying into Bugsy's stable and through the roof space.

I'm glad they're doing so much better this year!
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Culprit identified....

♥Aug. 16th, 2017 // 09:11 pm
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While weeding the back garden (this time with gloves on), I found another mystery plant, this time with white flowers, and Mike identified it as self-seeded nicotiana, the sap of which the internet confirms can cause skin irritation.

Fortunately, my diagnosis of the blisters as big but minor was correct: they've come off, and the skin underneath is undamaged. I'll have to remember that in future!
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Marrow mountain...

♥Aug. 15th, 2017 // 08:59 pm
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Sigh. And the early tomatoes have blight (although the later ones, farther from the polytunnel door, seem clear so far).

Home now, all well (other than Mike coming down with a cold). Will catch up on email over the next day or so....

Slightly worryingly, just after coming in from picking veg I noticed a couple of big-but-minor blisters on my fingers. I did pull a couple of weeds (without gloves) while I was out there, but I'm now wondering which of them were noxious.... There was something unfamiliar with purple flowers. Hmm.
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Touristing Helsinki

♥Aug. 8th, 2017 // 02:46 pm
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We've spent the last couple of days doing the tourist thing in Helsinki: we bought a 48-hour travel and museum pass and everything!

Yesterday, the weather was very changeable. We went for a walk around the harbour, visited two cathedrals and the city museum, then decided that a boat trip around the islands sounded nicely out of the rain. While we were waiting to board, it threw down and I got soggy feet, but it cleared up (and my feet dried) while we're were motoring around looking at the view.

It was raining a bit when we got off, but we decided on another boat out to the old island fortress. As we got off that boat, it threw down again, and my feet got wet, again.... We looked at a couple of the museums on the island then headed back to the hotel, where my feet gradually de-wrinkled.

Today is much nicer: warm and sunny. We went to the zoo (also on an island) this morning (generally very nice, although I wasn't keen on the size of the tiger enclosure), then came back into town for lunch followed by the national museum (really excellent new exhibit on pre-history, and nicely balanced post-independence annotated photograph display, the older stuff in the middle was fairly uninteresting and old-fashioned) and the Design Museum (good excerpts from the collection, nice temporary display, wasn't entirely clear on the point of the vaguely future-of-design section, at least half of which I'd personally call either food science or modern art but I guess it's subjective!).

We're rather knackered now, so we're having a rest before dinner. Seen a few familiar faces here and there, and I'm sure there will be more tomorrow.

Slightly put out by the combination of wooden floors, thin towels and no hotel gym, as my back's a bit unhappy and I'd have liked to do some exercises. Can't see any programme items that look like they'll involve potentially-borrowable yoga mats, either. Bah.

I appear to look sufficiently Viking that people keep speaking to me in Finnish (including the girl who cadged a cigarette then asked me why I was here then wanted to know if I accepted Jesus). Mike gets English every time.
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Helsinki

♥Aug. 6th, 2017 // 03:57 pm
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We're now in Helsinki, at the Original Sokos Vaakuna (the one by the main city railway station), after a very painless flight over.

Next stop, walking around in the rain and getting some dinner!
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Hay ho...

♥Aug. 4th, 2017 // 09:21 pm
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The day before we went Up North for The Wedding, we were due to get our hay delivered. Shortly before we were expecting it, I got a text from the Hay Lady to say that they'd decided that they'd put it in their barn and bring it to us later.

This was somewhat ominous, as normally they don't have enough room in their barn for our hay. Mike has taken Jo up there the day before and when he came home he said "they've cut it and there's nothing there!", so I made a mental note to get it from her ASAP before someone came and offered lots of money for it: it's been a bad hay crop here, because it was so dry, so prices are going to be silly by the new year.

Today, she brought a trailer-load, which is a third of our order. As we were unloading it, she said words to the effect of "er, yeah, about the hay crop... I can do you one more trailer load but that's it". She's got half what she usually does, has already told her first-time customers that she can't do anything for them, and is trying to spread the pain around her long-standing people.

After she got home, she called a much larger-scale hay producer to see if he could help: he could, but wasn't very enthusiastic (he was 800 bales rather than his usual 1200 this year and, again, wanted to save it for his regulars) and so quoted a fairly silly price.

I had a vague memory that Mrs Farmer had mentioned having a good crop this year and, as luck would have it, she was blackberrying when we took Jo out for her walk. She did indeed have a good crop this year, and has about 500 spare bales. When we got back from our walk, we drove up there to get a test bale ("ooph, we won't need as many of *those* as we do of our usual supply!" I thought as I staggered to the car with it). The boys seemed happy enough to eat a handful of it this evening, although the real test will be tonight: GB has a haynet of Mrs Farmer's as well as a net of his usual.

The Hay Lady came over in the evening as well, and took a third of the bale away to try it on her horses. Based on looking at and sniffing it, though, she said that if the horses were happy then could we put her in touch with Mrs Farmer to, if Mrs Farmer would like, find homes for it all (as long as it's a reasonable price. I've got no idea what Mrs Farmer is going to charge us, and suspect I'll be bargaining her up rather than down).

It's not nearly as nice as our usual stuff but I'm hopeful that the boys will eat it as long as we give it to them while it's still fairly fresh. And hopefully all the rest of the Hay Lady's customers will be sorted out as well!
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Getting ready to go....

♥Aug. 4th, 2017 // 11:21 am
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We're off to Helsinki tomorrow, via a night at Heathrow. I'm not really looking forward to it, and would much rather stay at home with my pooch, but Mike assures me I'll have fun when I'm there.

Yesterday, the power went off and on again with no problems, and the boys were surprisingly good going up there, with the digger going, and back again in the evening when it all looked different, which was a relief.

The day before, after going through the power cable, they also went through (just that house's) water pipe. As Mike said to Mr Up The Hill, at least they didn't take the phone line down as well....

Bloody rabbits have eaten (entirely) two of the French bean plants and chewed through the stem of one of the borlotti beans, which does at least explain the wilted leaves I saw yesterday. One of the tomatoes is very nearly red, though!
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Theatre recommendation

♥Aug. 1st, 2017 // 10:06 pm
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This evening, we went to see The Play That Goes Wrong. It is well worth a trip. I don't usually like things that are very slapstick, but I thought it was hilarious.

And the set is amazing. I was sitting next to a theatre type, who was saying how much he'd like to stage it but couldn't imagine getting the set right.
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Jodie in useful guard dog shocker!

♥Jul. 30th, 2017 // 08:49 pm
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I was weeding in the back garden this morning, with the radio on, when Jo went into the house and started barking.

When I went to see what she was worried by, I found the postman in the porch wanting me to sign for a parcel.

I'm being very crap at updating, recently, aren't I?

I had my second session with my new Pilates instructor last week, and could barely walk the following day: I may have to ask her to push me a little less hard.... On the other hand, I'd done nothing but sit in a car and walk at museum-visiting-speed for a week, so maybe not so surprising.

Thank you to everyone who made it along to our BBQ at the weekend, it was lovely to see everyone (even if it did pour with rain the whole time and thus was more of an Aga than a BBQ!). We have excessive quantities of beer left in the polypin, creative suggestions welcome. Do you think it would be a good or bad for the plants if I used it to water them...?

Someone left a copy of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas in the kitchen: anyone claiming it?
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Accidental pumpkins

♥Jul. 26th, 2017 // 09:01 pm
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We decided to try growing butternut squash for the first time this year, and I thought I'd improve our chances by buying some grafted plants.

It turns out that the root stock is pumpkin:



(We've chopped off the bits with pumpkin leaves, now!)
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Hmm

♥Jul. 25th, 2017 // 07:33 am
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Please, I said to the sitters before we went away, please help yourselves to vegetables, and be sure to pick the courgettes before they get too big.



(Mrs Farmer's been picking tomatoes for about three weeks now. "They are in the polytunnel," she said consolingly, but then so are mine!)

We've been travelling around The Frozen North* for the last few days, including Chester, Glossop, Ripon, Harrogate, Barnsely and Stoke. The sitters seem to have mostly done a good job, although I'm going to be having A Word with them about getting the gravel out of GB's feet when they come back in a couple of weeks for worldcon: I must have spent five minutes on what's normally a thirty second job, this morning.

The Wedding went pretty well in the end, although there was quite a lot of venue drama beforehand. My aunt is threatening a blistering TripAdvisor review, although I think my sister would rather have a refund!

* I had to borrow a coat from my mother. Never occurred to me to take one with me!
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Hay-fever

♥Jul. 17th, 2017 // 09:15 pm
My mother had hay-fever when she was younger, and it went away entirely when she was pregnant with my sister.

My sister has always had really horribly terrible hay-fever, and childhood eczema, and dust allergies.

When my mother was pregnant with me, her hay-fever came back.

I've never had hay-fever, or indeed any allergy in my life.

We've always put the whole thing down to some sort of pregnancy / immune system weirdness. However....

I've been sneezing for the last four or five days, and feel otherwise fine. Bah! I guess it's caught up with me at last.
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How embarassing!

♥Jul. 15th, 2017 // 08:51 pm
I just went to vote for the Hugos, and the only category where I had any strong opinion was Best Series (which I'm still not entirely sure I agree with as a concept anyway) and maybe BDP:SF.

I don't think I've read any of the fiction other than one novel that I bounced off. I've seen one of BDP:LF, and half of BDP-SF but couldn't tell you which episode was which. While I do think that Chuck Tingle deserves some Fan Writer kudos I'm not sure I want to rank him top in the category....

Oops. Am obviously a Bad Fan!
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Multi-tasking

♥Jul. 15th, 2017 // 11:20 am
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This morning, I pruned the wisteria, which (despite, or possibly as a result of, not getting to flower) has grown very vigorously this year.

This had the added advantage of providing Jo with a bijou snackette (once she figured out how to unwrap it) and, I very much hope, stopping expectant-mama-pigeon from waking me up at 4:30 every morning from now on.
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Awkward to the end...

♥Jul. 14th, 2017 // 10:41 pm
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It's very common to have a horse who spends his working life wearing shoes and then has them taken off for his retirement, on account of them not being needed when all he's doing is wandering around in a field.

GB's been happily barefoot for a decade, but today the farrier said that now he's not working we need to think about putting shoes on him for the two hundred yard walk up and down the hill each day to the summer pasture. It is true that his feet were a state, but I was thoroughly expecting to be told not to be silly when I mentioned shoes....

What I'll probably do is put booties on him, morning and evening, just for the walk. I ordered a set this afternoon, and they'll probably arrive before we go away for The Bloody Wedding so that I can check that they fit / he doesn't object too much before the sitters have to deal with him.

When we first took his shoes off, I bought him some ferociously expensive booties, which he hated with a passion. Now that he's had no shoes for so long, they don't fit him any more, so they've gone back in the box. Hopefully he won't complain too much about the new ones...
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Rain!

♥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
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... 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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Bloody horse flies....

♥Jul. 6th, 2017 // 02:27 pm
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The horse flies have been leaving me alone to a surprising extent over the last week or so. I was starting to wonder if new Mr Up The Hill (another one of us poor blighted folk who is beloved of insects) was running interference for me, as I'd had no bites in ages.

Sadly, it wasn't to be: yesterday, they started before I'd even left the stableyard, and I collected half a dozen bites as well as killing a few more before they got far enough to leave a lump.

(My guess is that the second generation was delayed by the dry weather, and that we're now n days from some rain, where n is the time taken for them to go through their pre-bitey stage of life.)

One of them, on my arm, is much nastier-looking than usual, with a big, hot swollen area around it: we decided that it was a bit worrying and so consulted the local hospital app (it works out your best A&E/MI unit based on current waiting and driving times, utterly genius) and headed off to a health centre near Whitstable with a minor injuries unit.

After a little convincing the nurse that no, really, I get bitten a lot and I know when it's worse than usual, and a bit of worried confusion when he thought that the lump was all the way up my arm (solved when he looked at my other arm and muttered 'oh, you have good muscle definition!'), he sent me off to the chemist for better antihistamines than I'd already been taking and told me to keep an eye on it.

As they're drowsy antihistamines, I'm hoping that they'll do the job quickly and not leave me unable to drive at weekend....
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Cherry surprise

♥Jul. 4th, 2017 // 08:14 pm
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After Little Quilt Club today, I headed cross-country to the big local farm shop: it's not the closest, but I wanted both flowers and cherries, and that rather limited my options. ("Are you going all that way?" the ladies at LQC asked, before conceding that they couldn't actually think of anywhere closer that sold both.)

About half way there, I passed a cherry stall at the side of the road, so I made a mental note and kept on going.

The farm shop provided a lovely bunch of flowers (for Mrs Farmer, as that was all the payment that Mr Farmer would take for doing the field at weekend), after which I headed back and (via an only-slightly-dodgy u-turn) stopped at the cherry stall.

Much to my surprise, it was being manned by the lady who I used to buy cherries from on the A2 on the way to Pilates. I hadn't realised that she had the stall in both places, and this one is much more convenient than the other. I realised later that I should have asked which locations she did on which days of the week....

There's now half a jar of cherries in booze in the cupboard, and a bowl of cherry pie filling* in the fridge. My new cherry pitter works well, although it's a bit of a squeeze to get the biggest ones into it and a couple of the stones got stuck and had to be bashed out. She also had the first English peaches of the year, so I bought a few to try: they're ready to eat and tasty, so I'll go back next Tuesday (presumably she'll be there again then, and I'll be in the area anyway) for more cherries and peaches, which I'll stick in jars as long as I can keep them away from Mike for long enough!

* looking online at cherry pie recipes, and having discounted the ones that include cherry jam in the list of ingredients, there seem to be two broad classes: ones where you cook the filling first and then thicken it with corn flour/starch; and ones where you cook it in the oven with the rest of the pie and include tapioca to thicken it. I'm unsure whether this just means that they are all based on one of two ur-recipes or whether there is some difference in the nature of corn flour and tapioca that makes the different methods better. Either way, a) I have corn flour in the house; b) I was brung up to blind bake my pies; c) I want to adapt the recipes to make smaller pies that I can cook in the Aga (which both make it tricky to reach the specific temperature and cooking time needed to set the tapioca-style filling); and d) I'd rather freeze prepared filling than raw cherries; so I've gone for the cook-it-first method. Anyone have strong opinions either way? I am wondering whether it would be better to freeze it pre-cornflour and then defrost and quickly boil it up to add that later.
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Overly optimistic jars

♥Jul. 2nd, 2017 // 06:23 pm
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To go with the jar of wild strawberries in vodka (much better crop this year than last, the jar's pretty much full), I thought I'd start a jar of cherries from our new morello cherry tree, on the patio (where the pointless grape vine used to be).

The books say that morello cherries do well on north-facing walls, which seems to be the case, and that birds don't eat the fruit because they're too sour, which seems not to be. After we lost the first few, we netted it and I've been picking the cherries as they come ripe.

I'd guess that about half of them are in the jar, now.



It's possible that a smaller jar might have been sufficient....

Yesterday morning, Mrs Farmer rang to say that Mr Farmer was on his way down to us, so now our field is nicely spread with little blue fertiliser granules. It would have been even better if last night's rain had actually amounted to anything, but as it was it was little enough to not help our field but enough (I suspect) to have caused problems for the hay that Mr Farmer had on the ground.

After he'd been, we headed northwards, carefully avoiding the M11 and associated 90 minute delays, where we spent a lovely afternoon sitting in the garden with friends, food and wine. I was a bit worried about how Jo would be, given that she's still rather clingy (a few days ago, Mike went to bed with a migraine and she refused to come out for a walk with me), but she was absolutely fine, even when she got left without either of us for a little while, and even said hello to another dog. The sausages that people kept sneaking her probably helped....

Mike mowed the front lawn today. Although much less colourful it does look vastly neater. In some ways it's good that it's too dry for it to grow much in summer, as he doesn't have to mow it so often, but it does end up looking a little odd when the non-grasses get going.

It seems to be a good year for squash: does anyone want some courgettes...?
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The sweetpeas are taking over

♥Jun. 25th, 2017 // 05:42 pm
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Last year, I planted a couple of perennial sweetpea plants in one of the flower beds. They did ok, but weren't really anything special.

Either they needed a little while to get themselves established or they much prefer the weather this year:



I had a go at putting normal sweetpeas along the drive this year, as I had spares and thought they'd look nice if they grew up the fence. They've rather been out-competed by the stuff on the other side of the fence (in the stableyard), though. I think I might get myself another pack of perennial seeds and see how they do there!

We went to see a horse on Sunday: he seemed to have a lovely personality, and looked nicely put together, but he'd never been ridden properly and didn't have a clue what he was doing in the school. Hopefully she'll find him a nice home where he can do nothing but go for long hacks....

I went to London last week, to see the dentist. Some sort of viral thing seems to have come back with me, which explains why I was so knackered all weekend, and probably also the upset stomach. I'm not exactly *ill*, but I'm also not entirely well. Possibly, in the light of this, I should have spent less time weeding today. It did need doing, though: it's been too hot recently to contemplate working in the garden.

We seem to have a lot of what look almost like yellow thistles appearing in the garden this year. Not sure what they are or where they've suddenly appeared from!
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Too hot....

♥Jun. 18th, 2017 // 08:15 pm
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I spent much of the day in the hammock. Jo is also too hot, poor thing.

The last couple of years, we've had a paddling pool on the patio for Jo to go in after her walks. It's not entirely satisfactory, as it's bigger and shallower than she'd like it to be, and takes so much water that I don't like to change it often, so it gets very icky. I did some noodling around online last week, and discovered the existence of something called a plasterer[']s['] bath, which is used to mix stuff up in and sounded like a very good size: 4'x2'x1' deep.

Jo does seem to like it, but it doesn't like being left full of water....



(It looks even worse now, the other side's also bowed out. I suspect it's going to die a death next time she climbs in!)

Bizarrely, GB seems to have bonded with one of the mares: when we brought them down the hill, he stood in the corner of the stableyard watching them, and when we put the boys to bed he was calling to her. Most unlike him, he's much too old to suddenly develop a taste for the ladies!
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Bitey

♥Jun. 18th, 2017 // 10:02 am
I am completely unsurprised to have woken up this morning with the evidence of yesterday's work in the field on my legs: four horsefly bites, the first of the season.

(And I've realised belatedly that my sister's wedding is in the middle of horse fly season, which may well scupper the plan to make my mother happy by wearing a dress!)

Agnes is, if not actually fine, back to her normal level of limpiness today, so I guess that the pick-her-up cure did the trick again.
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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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Huh

♥Jun. 16th, 2017 // 10:08 am
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While I was mucking out this morning, I saw the wren, mouth stuffed with insects, hop through the drain and into the empty stable. I was only a step or two away, so I poked my head around the door to see where he went next.

After perching on a stack of pallets for long enough to give me a suspicious look, he flew up and delivered his insects to the row of open mouths waiting in the swallows' nest.

I guess that the wrens decided that a disused swallow nest was a nice place to raise their brood, but now I'm wondering where the swallows are living this year!
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Oh, hello....

♥Jun. 14th, 2017 // 09:52 pm
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Today, we found some horse flies in the polytunnel. Bets now being taken on time until my first bite of the season....

I wanted a Thing that was an Amazon add-on item, and Mike could only think of another add-on item that he wanted, so I had a look at my Wish List and bought the annotated Pioneer Girl (Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography). Naturally, the book arrived yesterday, Mike's Thing came today, and the Thing that I was actually after still isn't here.

I'd been putting off buying the book (and, indeed, putting off people from buying it for me) because I was hoping for an ebook. Now that it's arrived, I've realised why there isn't one: it's very annotated, and the footnotes are at least twice the length of the text, so it's very much easier to read on paper. I've been reading a section of the bio and then skipping back to read the notes. It's very interesting, although I'm somewhat disappointed to have found an error already (the fictional Wilder family didn't name their cow 'Wreath of Roses'. That was the name she came with and Ma sniffed and said something like "Bah, foreigners, we'll call her 'Spot'"). Still, very interesting and likely to be available to borrow in the not-too-distant future if anyone else was feeling the same way I was about buying it.

Also, *still* nothing about how Pa makes the loo seat nice and smooth. V disappointing.
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And swallows!

♥Jun. 12th, 2017 // 05:38 pm
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The swallows are very busy, swooping around the stableyard. When you poke your head around the door at the right time, you can see a row of little mouths lined up waiting in the nest. There are at least three, possibly one or two more. Fingers crossed that they don't have a problem and have to start a second clutch this year.

We've also see a wren going in and out of that stable (although usually by the drain at ground level rather than flying through the door). It might be that the one who nested in GB's stable last year has decided that he prefers the neighbours down there, and at least it makes it less likely that I'll find drowned fledglings in the water buckets this year!
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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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Jo 3, crate 0

♥Jun. 4th, 2017 // 11:30 am
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Yesterday, we took Jo to the vet to check that there wasn't anything physically wrong with her. She's now got a clean bill of health and a pack of over-priced woo-woo pills, made from milk protein and designed to mimic the way that babies get stoned on breastmilk.

Needless to say, they made absolutely no difference last night when we moved the crate back downstairs and put her in it at bedtime. Mike, who is apparently softer-hearted than I am, gave in after fifteen minutes of banging and crashing. I needn't have bothered going downstairs to get her, though, because fifteen minutes was apparently all that the crate could stand as well:



I've ordered her a new dog bed for in our bedroom, and I guess the crate will be off to the tip on our next trip.

In better news, I did an hour's weeding yesterday with no ill effects, and the drive is now looking neater. Somewhat to my surprise, the spare sweetpeas that I put out there a couple of months ago are doing pretty well even though they got swallowed up by nettles and grass coming through the fence very soon after planting. Hopefully now that I've been able to give them some breathing space they'll bulk up a bit, because I think they would look nice growing over the fence.
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Garden serendipities

♥Jun. 3rd, 2017 // 09:41 am
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I've been philosophical about the fact that the fancy yellow columbines I planted in the garden are gradually being out-competed by the simpler pink/purple/blue ones that grow wild around here, but I was quite impressed today when I spotted a few fun hybrids as well:



I doubt that it's worth saving seed, as they'll be different again next year, but it is quite fun to watch!
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Sigh

♥Jun. 1st, 2017 // 03:50 pm
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Jodie )

Horses )

Wrists )

Oh, and grandad got thrown out of an expedited discharge from the hospital because he was causing trouble, and it looks like he's about to be thrown out of the latest home as well.

Still.

The ducks are laying well and the horses are busy getting fat.

The tomatoes and tomatillos are flowering, and I'm expecting the veg patch to suddenly explode into life any day now.

Mrs Farmer gave me a couple of evergreen honeysuckle last week, which I've planted next to the front fence in the hope that they'll grow over it and look / smell lovely, and the dahlias that I thought had been lost by the courier have arrived and been planted out.

I've just realised that the Pilates book that I bought months ago and never actually looked at not only goes through the exercises but has some ready-made routines in it, which helps with my vague plan to give up on classes in favour of doing it myself at home with an occasional (monthly?) private lesson to check I'm not getting bad habits.

Even with the good things, though, I'm feeling rather brittle and balanced on edge, which isn't a good way to be if you then have a wobble.
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Last night...

♥May. 31st, 2017 // 02:02 pm
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Jodie discovered new and exciting ways to break out of her crate. Sigh.

We're currently planning on moving the crate upstairs: if she insists on sleeping outside our door, she can at least do so in the box. Maybe that will make it less attractive and we'll be able to convince her to stay on her nice comfy sofa. Maybe.
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Pooch problems

♥May. 30th, 2017 // 07:36 am
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We've had a busy weekend of lovely visitors, but Jo seemed to be coping very well with it all until it came to bed time....

Three nights ago, I went to bed and left her in the living room with visitors under orders to cover the sofa, turn off the lights and close the door when they went to bed themselves. I've done that before, with no problems, but (in retrospect) it's always been people she knows better.

This time, though, she kept wandering upstairs and being brought back down again, then (after the door was closed) she started trying to bash the door open. Mike went down a couple of times to try to settle her, but she'd got herself worked up by then and when she started scratching the door he gave up and let her come in our room.

The next night, we didn't want a repeat performance and there was a thunderstorm forecast (which was indeed impressive), so I brought her up with me when I went to bed.

Last night, visitors having left, I put her to bed as normal on her sofa. Ten minutes later she started crashing into the door trying to get through to us, so we came back down, assembled her crate, and settled her in there instead.

Shortly afterwards, there was another crashing noise as she disassembled her crate followed by a panting at our bedroom door. We decided to leave it at that for the night, if only because we were tired and she was worked up again, and at least she didn't try to get through our bedroom door.

Today, the crate has been reassembled, and cable-tied to prevent easy disassembly. She's had two sessions in there so far, a shorter one with me pottering in the kitchen and a longer one with me upstairs. There were a few small exploratory thumps the first time but the second time she settled down and just looked mournful.

I don't really want to have to go back to crating her every night, if only because I can't imagine it will be great for her leg to sleep curled up rather than stretched out on her sofa, but I suppose we'll have to for a little while until she forgets about getting to go upstairs if she makes a fuss....
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Bah

♥May. 22nd, 2017 // 06:41 pm
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So I may have got the garden weeded but I did it at the expense of my wrists, which have been very sore for the past few days. I've been trying to rest them, which is frustrating as I have things that I want to be doing!

It's also a pain for Mike, who keeps having to do things like follow me around the garden while I point at places where he needs to dig up weeds or plant out seedlings. Still, "we"'ve got most of the veg bed planted out now, so hopefully it will all get on with growing and making tasty food. About the only useful gardening that I can do at the moment is watering things and pulling up nettles, which means I'm covered in stings!

On the assumption that it was actually a combination of gardening and cutting out pieces for quilts wot done it, I've put aside the quilt I started last week until I'm doing a bit better. I did, this afternoon, have a go at making a block for a different quilt on the grounds that it's paper pieced and so involves less repetitive/precise cutting of fabric. I'm quite pleased with the results, but my wrists aren't. Sigh.



The whole quilt will have the dark blue and cream fabrics in the background, and then I've got a range of different blue and cream fabrics for the stars.

The Up-The-Hill's came for dinner at weekend, which was nice and (we think) went well. Various amusing but not unexpected things about TWWOTV, including the fact that she's already not speaking to them although they're not sure why!
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