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Monday, 8 December 2014

No room at the inn?!


 You may remember here that I told you we had built a bug hotel for the insects to shelter in over winter?  Well I can't tell of course whether or not there are any guests resting inside but what I can tell you is that I have a colony of ladybirds who either couldn't get a booking there or perhaps thought Bug Hotel? No Thanks! and are now residing in our bedroom window!

We have a dormer window and the curtains hang on dormer rods as you can see above,

There is a narrow gap between the window frame and the hinge of the dormer rod just the right size for a little group of ladybirds to settle!  If you click on the pic to enlarge it you may be able to make out the little colony as a dark line.  I am surprised that they didn't choose the other side since the side they have picked is the side whose window is left open a little all the time except when we go out and it must surely be rather draughty.  But maybe that makes for easier entrance and escape.  Last winter we had ladybirds in the corners of the window frames and I had to be careful not to close the windows tight but to leave them on the locked but ventilated position or I would have squashed the little dears and there was a small group of them actually on the curtain who didn't seem to mind being swung backwards and forwards every time we opened or closed the curtain.  They are ideal house guests since they make no noise, they require nothing to eat nor do they leave any mess when come the spring they just disappear.

I notice too that in the compost bins there are many woodlice and a few snails settled in round the woodwork of the lid and first storey who don't seem to mind that the lid is lifted at least once each day letting in the cold air!  Maybe the bug hotel just wasn't large enough for them all!

 The bird table is a hive of activity what with the birds and the squirrels, who are so cheeky and get house points for perseverence.  We don't want squirrels to eat all the food and leave none for the birds but they too are wildlife and who are we to decide who shall live and who shall starve?  They can't help being squirrels can they?!

I also have a healthy number of spiders in the conservatory to judge by the cobwebs.  It is unheated so I don't spend much time out there and they can stay till the spring when they will be evicted during the course of the ritual known as spring cleaning.

So as you can see we do our bit for wildlife here even to the extent of sharing our home with them if there is no room at the inn or the inn is not perhaps to their liking!


Nothing to do with insects or wildlife but I did breadmaking workshop on Saturday.  I used to make a lot of bread and was pretty successful but lately my bread isn't as delicious as I might wish so I enrolled on the course and spent a happy and fun filled afternoon with 6 other students at Emma's bakery in the Real Food Shop in Exeter.

 We produced a 100% wholemeal loaf each, a foccacia embedded with olives, some Greek rolls called Daktyla topped with sesame seeds and a small loaf of soda bread - all of them organic.  I struggled home on the train with all my bread still warm from the oven and we enjoyed the foccacia for supper, I froze the Greek buns and we are both eating the wholemeal which is amazing since Mr M never normally touches wholemeal!  I have to say the soda bread (which contained seeds) has been made into breadcrumbs and the squirrels are enjoying that!  It was far too dry by Sunday and we could only eat so much bread on Saturday evening!

It was a fun afternoon and I learned that one of the reasons my bread is so dense normally might be because "wetter is better" and mine was always on the dry side when I mixed it, not to put the salt near the yeast until you are ready to mix it all together and the slower the rising the better the bread and the better its keeping qualities so no need to put it somewhere warm at all it just takes longer.  I am planning to sign up for the Improvers workshops in the new year and am inspired to bake more once we have eaten what we have!!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Expecting

No pictures just a few thoughts:

I have been thinking about connections recently and this week I thought about Advent as being a time of waiting, anticipating and expecting and how that might be connected with another meaning of the term expecting that of expecting a baby.  Of course the birth of a baby is what the Christmas story is all about so there is already a connection.

This week a double tragedy occurred when a young woman walked out of a maternity hospital in Bristol where she had given birth to a baby girl just 4 days earlier.  She left without a coat nor any proper shoes on one of the coldest nights so far this year and her body and that of her baby were found a day or so later just over a mile away where she had apparently jumped into the Avon Gorge.  I have thought a lot about her and what might have driven her to do this at a time when society would be expecting (that word again) her to be overjoyed at the safe arrival of her baby.

Our society expects us to be happy at the birth of a baby in the same way that it expects us to be happy at Christmas but it isn't always quite like that.  Take Christmas - in spite of the decorations and the parties and so on it can be a terribly sad time for many people as the advertisement for Crisis at Christmas says "when you are homeless and lonely at Christmas you can only watch as people meet for parties ....."  of course you don't have to be homeless to be lonely and for many people Christmas reminds them of loved ones who are no longer alive to share it with them.  Some are sick or sad, frightened or concerned and not everyone is enjoying themselves as the media would have us believe.

Having a baby can of course be a happy time especially if the baby and mother are healthy and well but for some people the baby blues set in and the mother loses all sense of her self and her ability to parent the child.  Not everyone is endowed with mothering skills and for some it is a nightmare not helped by the fact that some babies don't sleep enough and exhaustion soon sets in.  Some apparently adore motherhood and seem to know just what to do whereas others lose all their common sense just at the time when it is most needed and lacking in confidence makes matters worse since babies apparently need a relaxed and confident Mum.  But what about the Mums needing relaxed and peaceable babies?!!

It seems to be taboo to admit that you are not enjoying any of it, that you wish you had never thought of having a baby and that you can barely manage to get dressed half the time let alone return to a career where you might have been somebody busy and capable.  Lack of sleep can go on for a long time and such mothers can feel murderous when other mothers blithely say "Oh yes he/she sleeps through the night now" a few weeks down the line!  Not all babies sleep much at all and it is little consolation to a weary mother to learn that they are often the intelligent ones either which may or may not be true. (I loved the Wanderer and still do of course, and would willingly have died for her had that been required but motherhood was definitely not my metier and even now more than 30 years later if I hear a small baby crying my stomach knots and I want to run away as I have no idea what to do to calm it.  Not for me the peering into prams and cooing at the baby inside!!)

I wonder if Mary was a natural or if she too found it all very difficult especially with all those shepherds and wise men visiting and expecting her to make them welcome!  She always looks very serene but I wonder...!

I guess what this post is about is just a reminder to spare a thought for those for whom the Joy of the season is a little thin on the ground this year at Christmas whether they be sick, lonely or even new mothers who are finding it all too much.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another day another seaside

 Thank you all for your kind comments of my previous post - I continue in similar vein today with another seaside walk for you.  Cyber Monday?  Christmas shopping?  Busy busy?  Take a break and come with me for a breath of fresh air and relaxation!

One of the great advantages of being retired is that if a day dawns bright and sunny and there is nothing in the diary we can just take off and so it was that this morning we decided to take a trip to Bridport which is a town with many antique and junk shops.  I had seen a cottage style carver chair I liked recently and wondered if something like it might be found for our kitchen since I spend a lot of my time sitting out there listening to the radio and reading or knitting and so on.  We didn't find what I was looking for but we did find this cafe and went inside for a coffee and liked it so much we went back later for lunch too.  It was somewhere different - quirky and a bit alternative if you know what I mean.

 Nothing matched and there were books and magazines like National Geographic or Permaculture to read, a board of notices about everything under the sun from yoga classes to sustainability and art classes and best of all the coffee, and later the lunch, were delicious and very reasonably priced - we will certainly go there again.

 Having seen what we wanted in Bridport and had our lunch we walked back to the car park and set off for West Bay for a wander along the coast.  I don't think I will be joining in the Boxing Day Swim though!  It was very cold today even in the sunshine let alone on Boxing Day when it might be even colder!

 The sea was beautiful and the sky blue.  The sounds were of waves and the suck and pull of the sea over the pebbles and all thoughts of consumerism and world problems vanished from my mind.


 Legacy of last year's storms perhaps?  As we couldn't walk any further along in this direction we turned round and walked back towards where we'd come from.


 The waves looked like lace as they rushed across the sand.

 I walked out along the concrete pier - nobody fishing today but one or two other walkers.  This is looking towards Golden Cap.

 By now it was about 3.00 and the sun was getting lower in the sky and lighting the cliffs with a golden glow.  We didn't walk any of the coast path today but we have in the past walked up that steep slope from West Bay and along the top of the cliff before dropping down to Burton Bradstock - a hard climb and the path is now very close to the edge so don't think I'll be trying again any time soon!


Back into the little town and we then made our way home through the stunning Dorset countryside with the sun getting lower in the sky and bathing everything with an apricot glow before dropping below the horizon and the distant viewscould be seen in soft focus with the sky turning the softest pale birds egg blue with the moon to be seen waiting for its turn to shine and the trees an inky silhouette against the skyline.  We got home and lit the fire and put the kettle on feeling so grateful that we live somewhere where we are never far from such lovely places should a bright day arrive and happy that we are in good enough health to go there.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Away from the consumer scrum!

 
 The last day of November and what a beautiful day it was.  We had an early lunch and then went for a short walk nearby.

 This is one of my favourite places and I always feel at peace up here on the Ridge with distant views in all directions.

 It was so quiet nothing to be heard but the birdsong - bliss!  No traffic, no ringing of tills, no pushing and shoving, not another soul to be seen!

 I love the inky tracery of the trees against the skyline at this time of year although it is strange that not all the leaves have yet fallen from some of the trees.

  Just look at that sky - isn't it fabulous?

 There's something about gateways with a view beyond isn't there?  They draw me in and I feel I want to walk further, maybe to that horizon?  But not today as it would be dark and cold long before I got there!

 The sun is low in the sky now and the colour of the foreground is dark in photos but if you enlarge the photo by clicking on it the foreground is clearer..  Just look at that cloud formation isn't it great?

Back to the muddy lane where we had left the car, feeling refreshed and happy filled with gratitude for such a beautiful day, at this time of year something of a rarity.  Although a short walk it was just what was called for - I had seen the news reports of Black Friday and the fighting in the aisles to grab a bargain and had been struggling to understand what is happening in the world these days that people should behave in such a way. I could understand starving refugees behaving in such a maner when food parcels are dropped but for a television or an i-pad?  Surely not.  Black Friday is a comparitively new idea here.  Sadly it is often the worst ideas of American culture that we seem to adopt here in the UK and not their better ones,Thanksgiving now that's something we could adopt perhaps though for all I know that too might have become victim of commercialsim like Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas I saw this "tree" in a window display yesterday and thought what a good way to use up one's stash of yarns and reels of thread, thimbles and buttons etc!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

November at the seaside

 Fancy an outing and a walk with me?  We met a couple of friends yesterday at Weymouth - this was the beach a bit different to how it looked in July here eh?

The route to Chesil along the old railway line.




Nearly there and lunch time at the Visitor  Centre just along here.

The walk back took us along part of the South West Coast path.  All in all we'd probably done something like 5 miles or so and the sea air, sunshine and good company made it a day for the mental photo album!

Only problem with November walks is that it gets dark so early! We got back to the town for the bus back to the Park and Ride car park at 4.00 and were home indoors at 5.00 but although the sky was stunningly beautiful on our return journey all backlit by the sun below the horizon and looking like a watercolour painting with the inky silhouettes of the trees and the sky background in shades of palest robin egg blue, lemon and apricot it was dark before we got home.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Real Mail

Some time ago I joined in a letter swap organised by Elizabeth at Cornish Cream and I was partnered with Kirsi at Kimberlys Kitchen and Garden.  When I went to the blog to check it out I discovered that Kirsi is Finnish and her blog is written in Finnish too - but luckily there is a translation button and even more luckily, even though English isn't Kirsi's first language, her letter when it came was in excellent English!  Phew!


The package arrived in this pretty jiffybag and inside along with a lovely letter which made me feel I already know Kirsi was this dear little angel cutter.  I can see I will now have to find a suitable recipe to make some cookies for Christmas or maybe I'll put it on the tree instead and save the calories!  Thank you so much Kirsi and I do hope that we will become good friends through the medium of letter writing.  I know almost nothing about Finland and am looking forward to getting to know both Kirsi and her country, traditions and culture as we correspond.  I will reply to you personally very soon Kirsi and thank you so much for the thoughtful gift and for your interesting letter.

I have been taking a rest and a bit of a detox from blogging and trying to reduce my use of the internet somewhat but rather like dieting when you have to eat something and cannot go cold turkey as you might if wanting to give up smoking or alcohol or whatever I do need to use the computer at times otherwise my friends will all think I have died!  I do think however that I had been using it more than necessary and the following quotes, found in a journal I picked up in Waterstones and was tempted to buy, might illustrate my views:

We didn't have Facebook when I was young - we had phone book but you wouldn't waste an afternoon on it.

We are like Hansel and Gretel leaving crumbs of our personal information everwhere we travel through the digital woods.

In the age of Google when everything you say is for ever searchable the future belongs to those who leave no footprint

I like hanging round people who knit they are usually in a good mood - people who are staring into I-phones and so on whilst demanding your attention at the same time are not as much fun!

and another I saw somewhere which said something about learning to let oneself wonder once again ie not to just click on the internet and find the answer to e verything instantly.

So for the time being I am not around much on-line and am finding more time for the things that matter but I am sure I will be back when I have something interesting to say!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

October reflections


 One of the hydrangeas still blooming in the garden this chilly October Sunday morning - it is beginning to lose the freshness of the summer blooms but is still beautiful.

 On my kitchen window sill a few heads of the hydrangea which got broken a few weeks back - I rescued them and put them in this old sweet jar (a find when walking on the common when we lived in Guildford years ago!) What was a sweet jar doing out on the common I wonder?

 The photos don't show the true colours of the now dry flowers but as I stand at the sink I am reminded of those silk and velvet flowers ladies used to use to decorate their hats - they are really lovely.  A metaphor perhaps for those of us who are now past our peak and have lost not only the fresh bloom of youth but also the colour and beauty of middle age - in our youth obsessed society we too have our own beauty and worth don't you think?!!