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Showing posts from January, 2015

My love affair with the woodburning stove

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Today I have a heavy head cold.  I woke this morning to light snow on the hills and in the garden.  I had a hammering headache and streaming nose and eyes.  This was not a day for venturing out.  It was a day for sitting by the stove, snoozing, doing a little comfort reading.  I couldn't even find the concentration to knit.  But the day has passed away in a warm and comforting way because of our woodburning stove.


We have been using this stove for three seasons a year for nine years now and I could light the fire in my sleep. I start with quite a bit of scrumpled paper.  We use a broadsheet newspaper and I use about eight sheets.  I am pretty sure Ian uses fewer than that but that is what works for me!  Then kindling.  The kindling here was bought chopped during the period when Ian was languishing in bed with flu.  Normally he chops all ours.  How much kindling to use depends very much on how dry the logs are that we are burning.  If the logs are seasoned and dry they will burn w…

Seven years of January days

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When I was a child I longed to live in New England.  I had a beloved aunt who lived in Rye in New Hampshire who visited us every year, bearing books and telling stories of snowy winters and hot summers.  I loved the idea of such different seasons.  They sang out for me vividly in comparison with the grey green summers and the grey black winters of home.  But one thing that we do have in the United Kingdom, and very much so here in Wales, is a real variety.  Summer can be hot, or not.  Winter can be snowy, or mild.  I have come to love that unpredictability so I thought I would look back on seven Januaries to see what it has been like up here.


Here is January 2009, the hills white and the snow drifted up against the hawthorn hedge in the kitchen garden.


More snow in 2010 with the outdoor furniture under the yew tree cushioned in snow.  Ian usually puts it away but the snow must have beaten him to it!  I love the dome of snow on the table.


No snow in 2011 but bright skies and a hard fro…

The pleasures and pains of intermittent fasting

Well I promised to let you know how I am getting on with my decision to lighten up by following the 5:2 diet.   So here after my first week is my first bulletin from the front.  I have lost a couple of pounds which I am pleased with.  Of course it would be great to lose weight really quickly but it didn't come on quickly so losing it steadily and slowly is all right by me.  I haven't found the fasting days, where I am restricting myself to 500 calories, too bad.  I have done three now, spaced apart by two to three days, and I am beginning to see a pattern emerging as to how to do it.

The morning after the first fast day I had a powerful headache, very unusual for me, and I am pretty sure I was dehydrated.  Since then I have made a big effort both to drink lots on fasting days and also to continue to take in a lot of liquid on the following day.  That seems to have done the trick as I haven't had any problem at all following the two subsequent days.  Fasting days themselves…
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One of my longrunning favourite blogs is Croftgarden, the story of a garden sometimes battered by winds and storms and sometimes bathed in sunshine on the coast of South Uist in the Hebrides.  I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago.  It's an amazing place and a testament to the extraordinary energy and commitment of Christine and her husband that there is a garden where the land meets the sea. Christine has just blogged her answers to eleven questions on her garden and has nominated another five blogs to respond to her own questions as part of the Liebster awards.  I am honoured to be asked.  Here are her questions and my answers:

1. How would you describe your gardening style?

Naturalistic would be kind.  Unkempt would be another way of putting it.  I am trying to garden in a high site surrounded by farmland and open moorland and to produce something which fits the place.


2. Who or what has influenced the design of your garden?

I hope that the strongest influence is the pla…

Lightening the load

If to feel more free is the aspiration, and getting rid of some of the accumulation of stuff is already underway, what else could I be thinking about shedding?  We come round again to weight, fat, excess.  I am not hugely overweight, probably about a stone or so (fourteen pounds to my American readers) but I have been carrying this extra weight for about eight years.  I have never been one of these people who are rake thin and can eat anything but for most of my adult life my weight has hovered between nine stone and nine stone seven, not slender for my height of five foot four but not heavy either.  I would only ever be able to eat what I liked if I was exercising a lot and I cheerfully accepted a sort of discipline which meant that when my weight started to approach nine and a half stone I would exercise more, eat a bit less until it nudged back down again.

All that changed when I became seriously ill with an ovarian growth nine years ago.  I lost a huge amount of weight, down to se…

One word

Do I have a word for 2015?  No resolutions, although I have had fun with resolutions for years. Mind you, some do tend to recur rather: less food, more exercise, less wine.  Nothing too exciting there then and clearly they don't work or they wouldn't keep coming round again like a wooden horse on a roundabout at an old fashioned fair.

But a word.  I like the idea of a word.  I came across it first on Exmoorjane's blog.  Her word is "light".  Then it cropped up again on a new discovery for me, The linen cloud, where the word is "grow" and on another new to me blog, Mitenska, with her word "brave".  I like all of these.  I am living very much in the now.  My father's health casts a long shadow over 2015 so I had not intended to do anything which involved any sort of looking ahead.  What would be the point?  Be here, now.  But as I read the last of these blogs a word formed in my mind, suddenly, sweetly, like a bubble blown by a child: free.

A pale dawn, a new year.

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Well we survived 2014 and all that it threw at us and here we stand at the dawn of 2015.  Today I am not going to look back or look forward.  Let us just be in today.

It is cold and crisp, the sun is shining.  Now, approaching noon, those fields which face the sun have been  washed green.  Those in shadow still hang on to the grey frost which silvered all the landscape as the sun came up this morning in a wash of pink and grey.



Ian is in bed with the worst flu I have seen in a long time.  I take him a sweet tea and another blanket and go outside to check on the hens.


There is ice on the pond and I break the ice on the hens' water drinkers.  The hens are congregating on the roof of one of the houses to catch the sun.


This is the point of the year when I feel the need to poke around, searching for signs of new growth.  Yes, the yew tree is full of birds.  Yes, the holly shines and the ivy flowers catch the sun.  Yes, the Christmas wreath on the door still looks like a celebration.


B…