Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New Additions to the Flock

We visited friends and family in Yorkshire last weekend and came home with these two lovely ladies.

They are a birthday present to Steve from his mum and daughter and we are told that they are Magpies.

Magpies are hybrid chickens but we have yet to find any reliable information about their origins. There are a few references to them on t'internet but nothing very satisfying.
We shall dig deeper.

We put them into the new chicken shed that Steve is building before popping them in with the rest of the flock under the cover of darkness.

The next day there was the expected display of re-establishing the pecking order.

It quickly became clear that our Welsummer hen is fed-up of being at the bottom of the pecking order and she asserted her dominance over these two fairly effectively. Having said that, they were not afraid to peck back.

It also became clear that the cockerel was very pleased with his new ladies.

We are pleased with them too. They are undeniably pretty and already laying for us.

Here's our small flock.
It's not a great photo; it was difficult getting all of them in the frame as they sorted themselves
out. I'm sure we shall have some better photo's to share over the coming weeks but with the inclement weather they all have found different sheltered spots.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Top of the Rayburn Pops

Our Rayburn was delivered with this recipe book which I was grateful for because all but two of my cookery books are in boxes in the attic.

I also researched, and ended up buying, this book.

Both are useful in different ways.

I did not really need a recipe book for the two dishes that are currently Top of our Rayburn Pops. Having said that, both books contain recipes for these dishes, albeit with slight variations.

First up, and our staple autumn/winter breakfast is Porridge.
It is a long standing traditional breakfast for us but, like many, we had moved to porridge oats, or rolled oats, simply because they are quicker to cook from scratch. Now we are having 'Traditional Porridge' made with pinhead oatmeal. Pinhead oatmeal is whole grain, it takes longer to cook but results in a nuttier flavour than rolled oats.
The oats, along with milk, water and salt go into the Rayburn last thing at night and we wake to bowls of beautiful porridge every morning.

Right up there with Porridge is Rice Pudding.
It always amazes me how so little rice can turn into such an abundant pudding. Again, both books have recipes, still with variations, but the preparation is simplicity itself and you can choose how indulgent you want to be with the ingredients.
Into the Rayburn goes rice, milk (sometimes cream) and sugar and 4-5 hours later out comes a lovely pudding with a crispy top. The beauty of this is that it is a pudding that does not need high temperatures and it doesn't need watching, it just sits there quietly cooking until you want it.

We are eating other things of course, but these two dishes will, I think, stand the test of time and I foresee much porridge and many rice puddings gracing our table over the years to come.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cars, Chamber Pots and Clouds

I waved cheerfully at a passing neighbour as I emptied the chamber pot over the decking rail then had to chuckle to myself at the thought of what impression this spectacle had made.
As you will see from the photo, it is not sparkly clean but I doubt they could distinguish this fact as they drove past.
This particular chamber pot has been in my family for longer than I care to remember and I will admit that, as a child, I have indeed used it for its original purpose.
Back in those days, and up until 1977, my grandparents only had an outside loo and on cold winter nights using the 'gazunder' was infinitely preferable to the alternative.

When I rediscovered it, many years later, I used it as a plant pot holder. These days it is an outdoor drinking bowl for our three dogs. I was emptying the murky dregs to fill it with fresh water. Our neighbours are not to know this and, because of my wicked sense of humour, I am disinclined to put the record straight, for now.

That same day a leaflet was left in our mailbox entitled "Event Notification". The event in question is "The Rally of the Tests" - a Classic Car rally for cars that could have competed in motoring events of the fifties and sixties. I was already planning where to place the garden chairs so that we could watch this spectacle. The proposed route passes through our neighbourhood on Saturday 2nd November. They expect about seventy cars to take place which should take about an hour to pass through. But, Boo! The first car should be arriving around 6pm -8pm. It will be dark and we have no streetlights. That's a shame, but no doubt we shall still wrap up warm and watch them pass.

And so to clouds.
We have no shortage of clouds here and we do get some impressive formations but neither of us have seen one like this.
Taken last night just before it got dark.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Well Stacked...

We knew from the surveys that we had done before buying this place that the chimney stack would need some attention.

As installing the new Rayburn required the chimney to be lined we decided to wait and see what the closer inspection of the chimney stack would reveal. It was not good. It could not be repaired; we would need to have the stack replaced above the roof line. Thankfully, below the roof line the chimney was in good shape.

Another plus was that the Rayburn liner could be installed before we did any work to the chimney stack which is why, at one point, our chimney looked like this.

What the survey didn't reveal to us was that the wood burning stove in the living room was not, shall we say, perfect. In fact, it appeared to be cobbled together from parts of different stoves. Luckily, we had made savings on the cost of the Rayburn so used them to treat ourselves to an Aga Little Wenlock Classic.

This also needed a chimney liner and to attach the liner to the stove pipes we had to, effectively, punch a hole in the chimney breast. It's just as well that we haven't started decorating.

Little Wenlock Classic
The old stove had no chimney liner, another reason for it to go; we had a pretty good idea that it had not been installed 'properly'.

The Little Wenlock is now in place and we are safe and sound.

The stove it replaced has found it's way into Steve's shed.
"It might come in useful."
I think he has grand designs for his shed...

Back on the roof, our chimney is now well stacked.

It is supposed to be 'dashed' - in 'technical terms' they coat it with cement or something then throw little stones at it in the hope that they stick.

We have decided to leave that until the kitchen extension is built. You can see from the photo that there is some flashing on an angle. Hopefully, that will line up with the new roof of the kitchen extension.

The kitchen extension? Well, we have plans that have gone off to be approved by the Building Regulations people.
Builders? There are lots here who come highly recommended. Unfortunately, like all good builders, they are all very busy.

Steve is ever the optimist and is pushing to have it done by Christmas.
 (Oops! I said the 'C' word and we haven't even done Hallowe'en yet!)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Puppy Dog Tales

We brought Amber and Molly home in July last year.

They are now nearly sixteen months old and have embraced their new life in the country, along with Jilly, our older Lab.

Jilly has spent the summer enjoying the novelty of going out of the front door, wandering around the garden and coming back in through the back door. It wasn't something she could do at our old house.
We are also pleased that she is spending less time on the sofa. Indeed, even on chillier days she is asking to go out to lay in one of her vantage points where she can see all around her. She even lays outside in the softer Cumbrian rains, but is not daft enough to be out on the days when it is blowing a hooligan.
She has enjoyed several dips in the beck over the summer. When the beck is low there is a nice little pool just alongside us, deep enough for her to get the weight off her feet and have a doggy paddle. We like to think it eases some of her aches and pains.
I am ashamed to admit that I have no decent, recent photo's of her to share and she is at present snoring by the side of me so I am not going to wake her for a photo shoot.

The pups are having a whale of a time and have spent most of the summer finding hidden treasures in the garden. A lot of old dog toys have been found, a dryer ball, a couple of CD's, a mug, endless plastic plant pots... the list goes on and on.

 Amber is partial to 'finding' bulbs - the plant kind.
To give her credit, she does bring them to me after playing a while with an expression that seems to say "This doesn't taste nice - why?"
We now have a large plant pot full of bulbs that I hope to replant today along with a lovely house warming gift of spring bulbs from some family friends who visited in August. These will go into planters so that we can keep an eye on them but I think I will pop the older bulbs into the grass verge along the outside of our fence.

The pups have learned not to bark at the sheep or the cows, but they do enjoy cyclists.
The road alongside us is part of two cycle trails. The pups race the cyclists along the fence line, arriving at the end of the garden before the cyclists do, then bark at them as they go past.

They are both in good health. We took them to the Vet for their booster jabs in August and they were both pronounced fit and healthy.

I would like to thank Flighty for enquiring after the canine members of our family, which has prompted this post.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

A Small Holding

We are once again "A Small Holding - smaller than a farm but larger than an allotment".

Because of our move, and because we want to keep livestock, we had to apply for a new County Parish Holding Number (CPH) and, because we want to keep pigs, we had to apply for a new Herd Mark from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA).

It was amazingly simple and much quicker than when we first applied several years ago.

Although it is unlikely that we shall get any pigs until next year, we do have space reserved for them.

We have no vegetable garden yet and many a summer's evening has been spent pondering the placement of beds. We expect to commence digging soon.

We do have a greenhouse.

I took one look at it when we first arrived here and decided to let everything die back and then tackle clearing it in autumn.

Then one of our visitors declared "You have grapes!"

And, yes, we do have grapes.

Steve has picked them this week and we have two colanders full. We have no idea what variety they are. They taste sharp but sweet at the same time.

We have eaten some with delicious local cheeses.

I pondered making juice from the remainder but then came across several websites raving about frozen grapes. So, I froze them.

I simply washed and dried them and froze them on a tray before bagging them.
I have to tell you that they are delicious! I keep popping the lid of the freezer to steal a few on my way past. I doubt that I shall eat an unfrozen grape again.

Now the decision is, do we let the vines do their own thing or do we manage them? They seem to have grown quite happily untended this year and Sod's Law says that if I mess with them they won't grow as happily next year.

Research is needed methinks...

Sunday, 25 August 2013


There is a pound in our village which the information board near the drinking fountain tells me is for stray animals.

"What a nice idea!" I thought. Presumably, if a farmer lost one of his flock, he could check the pound.

 My thoughts turned out to be a little naïve, as I found out when I researched an oddity that I spied in another village.

The oddity I spied was this and I stopped to see what it was.
Sadly there was no information plaque to tell me the what or the why for. My first thought was that it looked like a giant beehive.

Happily, t'internet had all the answers.

This is the Warcop Pinfold Cone and it was crafted by Andy Goldsworthy, OBE as part of the Sheepfolds project undertaken by Cumbria County Council in 1996 as part of the UK Year of Visual Arts. The project ended in 2003.

The idea behind the cones was specific to the pinfolds around Kirkby Stephen with the inspiration coming from Nine Standards Rigg at the summit of Hartley Fell.

Then I learnt about Pounds and Pinfolds.

The village pound was not somewhere for a kindly neighbour to pop a stray animal. It was a Pinfold and if one of your animals was found munching on grass that it had no right to be grazing on, into the Pinfold it would go and you couldn't have it back until you paid a fine to the Pinder who was an officer of the Lord of the Manor. The Pinder was, essentially, the Poundkeeper. So much for neighbourly love.

Today, these pounds and pinfolds are no longer used for their original purpose but new uses have been found for many of them and there is further information about this on the Pounds and Pinfolds pages that I have linked to above. One such use is to house the wonderful sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy, it just seems a pity that his work stands anonymously.

Our village pound stands next to what used to be the Manor House and has a 'pound within a pound'. It is larger that the Warcop Pinfold; maybe this village had more naughty animals?

Going back to the Sheepfolds project. A sheepfold is the same as a Pinfold, but different. The construction is often the same but sheepfolds are usually found on the fells either on the open fell or in the corner of a field. These are used for shelter for the sheep and to help the shepherd to control his sheep.

Pinfolds, pounds and sheepfolds are not unique to Cumbria and the Pounds and Pinfolds website is compiling a National Register. I am certainly going to be keeping my eyes peeled to see if I can spy some more as we explore our new home.