Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Step Back in Time

A month or so ago I spent a long weekend in Wales doing a course called 'Food,Farming and Clothes of the Common Man in 1620'. It appealed to me for two reasons - firstly it largely took place on the restored 17th century farm which was used in the television series 'Tales From the Green Valley'. Secondly many of my ancestors were 'ag labs' and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to gain an insight into their daily lives. It was pure serendipity that I even found out about it as it was a locally run course and not widely advertised. The people who own and are working on the long term project of restoring the farm don't want it's location to become known as it would ruin the entire ethos of the place. The group doing the restoration are mostly re-enactors of the Civil War period (the English Civil War not the American one) and it is a long-term labour of love. I e-mailed Stuart Peachey(above with Gilly), who was one of the people involved in the Green Valley programmes, about some booklets which he has published on cottage gardens, farming and the lives of working people. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the programme and he told me about the course. I think it was because I had shown a real interest in the subject rather than having written a sort of fan mail thing. I left home at 5.45am on the Friday morning in an effort to be down past Birmingham and onto the M4 before the rush hour traffic got going so I was in Chepstow where we were based by 10am. Since I didn't actually need to be there until late afternoon I had chance to look around the town which was quite a pleasant little place, as I wandered down towards the River Wye I discovered that Chepstow has a castle - rather a well preserved one as far as the outer walls are concerned. I love anything like that so in I went and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering round. The photo below is of the lower bailey. The castle dates back to the 11th century, in fact the building was started the year after the Battle of Hastings and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. There is a link here if anyone is interested. It was a beautiful afternoon and the various parts had good information boards but part of the enjoyment was the sense of history and the wonderful views from the walls especially in the upper bailey. Something else that I loved was this door which is an original one from the 11th century - indoors in a small museum now to preserve it . Think of all the people who have walked through that door - the maidservants, menservants, ladies in rich gowns of all periods,men at arms,Royalist soldiers and the great men who lived there over the centuries - William Fitzosbern, the Earl of Hereford, Walter Fitz Richard, the Earl of Worcester who held Chepstow for the King and Sir Nicholas Kemeys who died defending the castle for the Royalist cause. So much romance and tragedy in one ancient door.

It doesn't look that big in the photo but I was on a gallery looking down and it's actually huge and was once the main entrance to the castle I think. This seems to have turned into an essay on Chepstow Castle, so just one more photo of one of the arrow slit windows high up in the upper bailey and looking out over the River Wye and the Welsh countryside.

I'll continue the story of the weekend in another post later tonight or in the morning.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Country Walk

This morning the weather was mild but we had heavy driving rain and I thought the afternoon's planned walk with Judy and her dog Martha would have to be postponed. However just as I was about to phone Judy and call it off a patch of blue appeared and the rain stopped so I decided to chance it, making sure to put my proper hiking boots and a light waterproof jacket in the car. Martha is Bilbo Baggins' lady friend and is pictured above with him. Judy lives in the country and she and her husband are currently restoring a 1750s cottage while living in a caravan in the attached paddock. There are lots of nice walks around where she lives and above are Martha and Bilbo Baggins enjoying themselves along the way.
The skies were filled with heavy threatening looking clouds all the way round but we were out for a couple of hours and the sun was out the whole time. We set off down the lane then up through the woods eventually coming out on a path leading across a recently harvested field. The field had also recently been liberally spread with muck and there was what my mum always called ' a good,healthy country smell' very much in evidence! The dogs obviously agreed with my mum and thought it was truly wonderful. After crosssing a lane we came to the fields which supplied the wide open view and lovely cloud formations above. Across another lane and then the path went through a large field of still unharvested barley - it seems very late for it still to be uncut, it was certainly more than ripe but rather stunted due to the lack of rain during the summer. Maybe it isn't high enough for the machinery to harvest properly or maybe I just don't know that much about farming!

I was going to upload a couple more photos but Blogger won't let me so I'll try again tomorrow. All the hawthorn trees are heavily laden with berries and I took a picture of one really lovely one along with another one of bunches of the wonderful transluscent red berries of the woody nightshade, a deceptively innocent sounding name - the berries are not only beautiful but also poisonous. We finally got back home to be greeted by Blondie, Gloria and Road Runner who are Judy's three very tame and no longer very productive hens , she's planning to get more in the spring I think along with a couple of sheep - apparently I am to take spinning lessons so she can give me the fleeces when they are sheared!!! Hmmm, yes, well......

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Mum!

Today would have been my mum's 96th birthday, she went to the Summerlands at the beginning of 1999 but she is still with me in the many happy memories I have of her. She gave me a wonderful childhood and we were great friends all through her life. This photograph was taken a few months before she was 80 and is one of my favourite pictures of her because it shows her just as she was.

Among the really great memories are the stories she told me when I was having my bath every night, they were made up out of her head and I got an instalmemt every night of the adventures of Tig and Li(the i as in eye) - a young lion and tiger! It's a talent I didn't inherit unfortunately and my three all had to have their bedtime stories out of books.

Another wonderful is the walks in the country we had pretty well every weekend apart from in the depths of winter, we always had a picnic and a regular springftime walk was in the bluebell woods where in those days (late 40s/early 50s) we could pick armfuls of the deliciously scented flowers to take home. I scattered her ashes there one spring day when the bluebells were flowering and one day I'll join her there. I hope no-one thinks this is a sad post because it isn't - it brings back happy memories of all the love and laughter we shared over the years. So Happy Birthday Mum wherever you are!

Knitting again

At last my thumb has` agreed that I can start knitting again provided I don't overdo it! Yesterday I carried on with the wrap that I am making for my daughter.

This photo was taken before the thumb incident so it is much longer now, it isn't a good photo so I'll try and take another when it's finished. I tmay be a while as I usually have two or three things on the go at once. I'm way behind with starting on some winter cardigans etc for my little grand-daughter so will probably cast something on later today.

I always admire and envy women who can knit and watch TV or read while they work, the only thing I can do at the same time as I knit is to listen to music. This affects my knitting speed in an unbelievable fashion, the relaxing type of stuff like Llewellyn or Kevin Kendle is no use if I need to get on with something! If I need speed I put on some Glenn Miller or, even better, Irish fiddle music. You haven't lived until you've been to Ireland and been drawn into a pub by the sound of fiddlers and drummers then sat with a pint of Guinness to hear musicians play and watch others step dance. It isn't a show, just people showing up and joining in, the musicians change as one gets up and leaves with his fiddle and another arrives and sits down with his(or her) Uileann pipes. Then a couple or just one man will get up and dance for a while - it is the most wonderful experience. As far as I know I don't have a drop of Irish blood in me but that wonderful music speaks to my soul.

Back to the knitting - I've only just started taking photos of things I've made and done and seen so there are only a couple of other things I can put here, the first is a pram blanket I recently finished for my grand-daughter and the other is an owl I made for my daughter. I made one for my younger daughter-in-law's nephew and Jules saw it and wanted one too - she's 26! It stayed here when she moved out last month with strict instructions that "Kaitlyn can play with it but it's still mine"!

Well they've both appeared at the top again - I need to go and read How to Upload Photos again!!

Tea and Margharitas, I'd like to link to yours and one or two other blogs too - is it hard to do? And thanks for the comments that have been left, it encourages me to know that at least a few people are reading my efforts.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Wonderful Late Summer's Day

Today has been just about perfect - blue skies, warm but not too hot sunshine and a light breeze. I took Bilbo Baggins(pictured left among the bluebells) for a long walk this afternoon up a lane that leads towards the moors. This is going to be a fabulous autumn for berries and nuts I think.
All the rowans and hawthorns are absolutely laden and there are lots of blackberries and rosehips too. There was one particular place where the rosehips were positively glowing in the sunlight and as I pressed the shutter to take a photo the message came up 'Battery empty'!! For once I didn't have a spare one with me so I shall have to go again because they were really beautiful. I discovered right at the top of the lane, just before it fades out onto the moor, a holly bush - a large one! - absolutely thick with berries. They are still green of course but when Winter Solstice comes round I shall know where to go for holly for my sled. I know of at least two other bushes that berry well in good years but I haven't checked up on them yet. Both are off the beaten track so tend to be left alone and I take only what I need so that the bulk are left to feed the birds. There are parts of the lane where you can see right over Blackamoor and there were great sheets of purple in the distance where the heather is flowering - fortunately my battery hadn't run out at that point so here is a picture of it. Well, the picture appears to have put itself at the top of the page - I am still on a learning curve as far as uploading images and setting things out is concerned!

It was exciting to discover I already have a comment on my blog - thank you tea and margharitas!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rain on the windows

It's a wet night and though it's still August there's a very autumnal feel about it. I love the sound of the rain beating against the window and a wind howling round the house when I'm safe and warm inside either tucked up in bed or curled up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. Not so pleasurable if you have to go out in it of course! There's no wind tonight and the rain is a welcome sound after the long dry summer, you can see the garden practically lapping it up. I'm glad now I've made the effort the last couple of days to go and work out there in spite of my sprained thumb which has made gardening practically impossible for the last three weeks and even now it isn't easy. Amazing how much you use your thumb for, it isn't until you don't have the use of it that you really realize - no knitting, no cross-stitch, no driving. On the other hand no washing up, no peeling vegetables - there's a positive side to everything!
This is my first post on my first blog so hopefully from now I shall keep up with it regularly as the seasons pass and the wheel of the year turns.