A catch up

It is time for a blog about day to day things. I am sitting by the woodburner with a new load of logs in the basket and it is raining gently outside. Only a week ago we were hanging on to the last days of a golden autumn which almost converted me from my long held dislike of this time of year. The garden was looking better that it ever has in October, thanks to a combination of the endless flowering of masses of self seeded cosmos and a soft warm light which washed everything the pale straw colour of Fino sherry. I planted out a hundred tiny wild tulips, tulipa sylvestris, which will fling open their star shaped cream and yellow flowers in spring. I sowed Sarah Raven sweet peas and annuals, Orlaya Grandiflora, Ammi Majus, and white foxgloves by the box full. I considered once again cleaning out the aluminium greenhouse and once again found something else to do. That must be one of my least favourite jobs, on a par with cleaning the oven. I spent almost as much time outside as I do in summer, cradling my cup of tea and finding pockets of warmth and sunshine to share with the cats and the peacock.

But this week it is grey and cold and dank. There is no attraction whatsover in being outside and I am wavering about whether to succumb to the planning of Christmas. Quite a large part of me doesn't want to. It will be here soon enough and doesn't need me to rush towards it waving my arms. But I am hoping to keep my presents as far as possible hand made, either by me or by others, so perhaps I need to accept that I should get a move on. If I want to buy some things from the lovely and talented pipany I can't expect to do that the week before Christmas so I had better plunge in. And I enjoy making Christmas food, especially cakes and puddings, although it does seem strange to plan a stir up Sunday with none of the four children around to wander into the kitchen and help with the weighing or surreptitiously add a bit more brandy (you know who you are). This year there will be a new face at the table. My older daughter is expecting her first baby just before Christmas. I am not a sentimental person but just typing those words has made my insides leap with a mixture of joy and apprehension. How the world turns.

Last night was the first night of rehearsal for the one occasion in the year when our local male voice choir, Cor Meibion Caerwys, invites women singers to join them. We sing at the service of nine lessons and carols in our local church. I am not a church goer and I don't have much of a voice, I can just about hold a tune if everyone around me is holding theirs, but I love the experience of singing with a really good choir. I did this a couple of years ago and blogged about it here There is a wonderful forgetting of yourself in singing, utterly in the moment, carried along by the swell of the sound around you, and singing in Welsh has its own magic.

In the kitchen I have another great bucket of the last of the green tomatoes which need to be made into chutney. It is just long enough since the last frantic chutney making fortnight for this to be an attractive use of a dark, wet afternoon, filling the kitchen with the smell of vinegar and brown sugar.

A friend has given us a new hen, a Buff Orpington/Welsumer cross which is supposed to make a great broody. With luck we shall have some chicks in the spring. She is hanging sadly around by the house, the others off out in the field foraging. Every time a new hen joins the flock they go through the same process: first she stays by the henhouse, totally ignored by the rest of the flock as they charge off up through the kitchen garden to scratch under the bird feeders. After a few days she gets the idea and tags along at the back, far enough away not to be part of the group but close enough to see what is going on. In another day she might start hanging around right at the edge of the flock, like a child hoping to be invited to play, and then I will look up and see that she is right there in the middle as if she has always been there. She hasn't been allowed up on the perch yet and last night I found her sleeping in the nesting box with another Welsumer which came to me from the same friend a few months ago. Hens are clearly creatures of habit which does require memory. I don't really suppose they remembered each other but it was funny to see them fluffed up side by side.

Now I should really go and see if she is ok.
Yes, not only ok but safely away in the henhouse all by herself!


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post today elizabeth. I could have written it myself. Suddenly all the bulbs are planted and the garden has taken on its winter look (although plenty of rosebuds still trying to get out); and like you I keep thinking I ought to start Christmas preparation - puddings and cakes to make, presents to buy and wrap - I love it really but getting started takes some doing.
    A Christmas baby - how exciting. I look forward to hearing about the happy event - and yes, I know, mothers always look forward with apprehension. Best wishes to the mother to be.

  2. You always write such lovely gentle and evocative posts, Elizabeth, and now to add the news of a grandchild - how wonderful!

  3. Another lovely post Elizabeth. So exciting about the baby. My insides are leaping for you! Thank you so much for the lovely mention; I was truly touched to read it and your opinion of my work means a lot to me. Thank you lovely lady xx

  4. That was so soothing to read, love the chickeny bit - they are strange critturs aren't they?

  5. It sounds so warm and cosy where you are Elizabeth - a wood burning stove is undoubtedly more romantic than a radiator. Our autumn seed sowing list shares some similarities :) The weather has indeed changed in the last week and I am trying to mentally steel myself to go to the allotment tomorrow morning.
    Wonderful news of a new babe at such a joyous time of year.

  6. I would happily exchane your cld and dap for our 39 degree C days we are getting, terrible weather for spring and not normal, we ave had so far 4 days well over 30 and ar lwasr 4 more to come.
    I am ot sure how the garden will survive thi latest onslaught.

  7. There are some compensations for these lengthening dark days are there not?

    Who can resist the draw of the log-burner and the tantalising smells coming from the kitchen - and as the old year ages and draws to a close the promise of new life. Such blessings. Lucky, lucky you.

    Lovely post, once again, Em.

  8. You've completely captured the essence of the changing season. I agree those warm rich smells of Christmas cooking feel comfortingly right at the moment.
    And a solstice baby to bring you blessings for the new year. Perfect.

  9. Weaver - thank you. I like the preparation too once I get going but I don't feel ready just yet!
    Rachel - the grandchild is very exciting. don't feel remotely old enough but don't care!
    Pipany - need to email you to find out if you are still doing babbits.For other readers, this is not just a strange pet name.
    SBS - they are odd aren't they? For some reason I find them very funny, not sure why, other animals aren't necessarily funny but chickens are amusing without needing to do much more than run around and scratch a bit!
    Anna - it is pretty good here. The downside of a really old house in summer is that it is never a vast lightfilled space - thick stone walls, small windows. It comes into its own in winter when the stove is on and the curtains are closed and the lamps are lit. I suppose when it was built everyone would have been outside working in summer.
    Penny - hi and welcome. I have been over to read your blog. I think I would take our grey winter over temperatures that make you fear for forest fires any day.
    Mountainear - thank you. I just need to see the baby born and everything all right! But yes, life is good and I don't take any of it for granted.

  10. The way you describe all this is charming. A great read. And a peep into another kind of life. Lovely. Envy-producing. But lovely.

  11. The rain is bad enough without further depressing oneself with the thought of Christmas planning. I wonder what would happen if I just pretended it wasn't there?

  12. Ah, yes; one of those "in between" months, when nothing seems quit right.

    Planting bulbs at this time of year? The ground is frozen over here. But, this isn't Wales. Sadly.

    And to answer your question from your previous post, it sounds like you've more or less made the transition to country. Just the right amount of time, I would venture to say. Hope you keep enjoying it!

    And while the hen is in the hen house, Sadie pup is sleeping at my feet. Sounds like "All present and accounted for."

  13. Elizabeth, I will PM you about the Babbits. x

  14. Lovely post - I love it as we move into Winter.

    Ah yes I can remember how my chickens behaved. They can be quite brutal and you can see where the saying - pecking order - comes from . . .

  15. Well on another grey day you r post was very comforting to read. I'm exactly the same about singing - and Christmas, except for the handmade bit!

  16. Lovely, as always, and now I can even put a face and a voice to the scene. I am as happy as ever to have found you.

  17. paula - a solstice baby is a lovely phrase!
    Fran - hi, good to meet you. I love your blog too!
    SS - ah, a man who dislikes Christmas. I know one of two others who would happily hide away for a few days with you.
    Rob - not sure I like the sound of frozen ground already. I should appreciate where I am, between the heat of Australia and the Canadian cold maybe.
    Pipany - thanks, I will go and look now.
    WW - the pecking order is nature red in tooth and claw when it gets brutal. This hen seems to be sliding into the heirarchy without too much trouble so far.
    Chris - there may well by more purchases of things handmade by others than making myself, I am more of a cook really. And an eater and drinker obviously.
    Friko - it was great to meet you. Thanks for your hospitality and company!

  18. I like your observation about the diversity of climate within the commonwealth -- Wales being caught "between the heat of Australia and the Canadian cold."

    We've arrived at the time of year when we have to scrape the frost off the windows before we can drive anywhere. The -40° temperatures cannot be too far away now.

  19. What a wonderful post. I have had a little red hen visitor daily for weeks from the neighbor to the back of us. She had discovered the bird feeders and a spot where she can scratch around for bugs, I guess. I tried to video tape her and I did, but don't know how to put on my blog yet. She makes a lot of noise scratching around in the leaves. I have enjoyed her company.

  20. The woodburner, the logs in the basket, the rain outside...what a great opening that sounds cozy and prepared and satisfied. And we have green tomatoes to make into chutney as well! Except we'd better hurry as Ive noticed some of them ripening. And lovely image of the hens fluffed up together--I would love to have hens, but I worry about foxes. Perhaps when we have a bigger fence in the garden next year. Enjoyed this.

    Ive mentioned you and your blog on mine today, hope thats ok. I'm mainly referring to your tweet reply to my 'no more middle age' tweet recently!

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