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An itinerant observer and thinker about life in general, sharing some moments of wandering and wonderment.

Friday, 30 August 2013


As readers of my blog will know, I have had two under gardeners "working" in the garden here and they did a really good job of pruning the apple trees (to ewe head height) they also gratefully ate all the fallen apples.  Now the ladies that munched have gone, the fruit on the grass are mainly eaten by wasps and I am not joking when I tell you that there are hundreds of them all getting rather inebriated!
I guess it's a bit like us drinking early pressed cider. The more you drink (Or as in the wasps case eat) the more sozzled you get! Now, the apples here are falling off the trees faster than one can eat so they were getting gathered in a wheelbarrow ...

along with various other things like weeds, past the use by date bread ... all of which was destined for the compost heap! However ... just down from here, where I borrowed the two ewes there were other eagerly ready recipients willing to eat the produce from this garden.
so, from opine to porcine, this wheelbarrow full of over ripe fruit took a very short journey ... and ended up  being munched and scrunched by some very willing animals ... Saddle Backed pigs! What a delightful group they were, diving straight in and happily munching away.
Apple sweetened meat, now there's a thought! Having tasted their sausages I definitely want more and for those readers who cringe at the idea, well unless you are totally vegetarian, just give a thought to where your meat comes from. For me at least, rather  this than some commercially farmed, speed fattened,   ill fed swine meat on a supermarket shelf pork, whose provenance one has no idea of or ... animals that are well fed and truly cared for. Most shoppers are so unaware of where their meat comes from but at least I know that this local meat is well managed and fed on more than the simplest quality feed!
And I know for certain that these animals were well cared for and basically free range!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


And I bet you are wondering what the title of this post is all about ... be patient out there.
As you know from my last post, the real sheep went home on Bank Holiday Monday, leaving my dear black sheep gift all lonesome!
<<< Such a small amount of grass left to munch! When my good friend gave me this present, little did they realise that the very next morning real sheep would be here clearing a much larger area! She thought I was joking but on a visit today was amazed at the change.
Anyway, over the weekend there was a Flower Festival in the village church. The theme was Favourite Biblical Stories  and some of the entries were brilliant and innovative. Sadly the light in the church was not exactly conducive to blog worthy photographs, but ... I got a chance to go up on the roof.
My guide was a local guy and full of information (too complicated to go into here) but what a fascinating guided tour I had. To climb those steep, hand crafted concentric stairs, (all be it slowly) was just a wonderful adventure. The hand chiselled  marks in the stonework and even hundreds of years of graffiti was an absolute delight to read.
Looking down on the church from what used to be the Minstrels Gallery was wonderful.
Below me, modern day folk were discussing the floral displays and the art work exhibited in this ancient old building. There were teas & coffees and delicious home baked cakes for  sale and I can testify that the local ladies produced some absolutely mouth watering cakes. I had sat outside with a friend just enjoying tea & cake in the glorious Bank Holiday sunshine. Inside, old friends caught up with the latest in village news, Meanwhile ... I had more stairs to climb to see the bells which are in tune and still rung on occasions.

Now ... there is a small booklet that details the history of this wonderful little church and maybe another day I will be able to write a more comprehensive post regarding its history but for the time being, bear with me,  I just wanted to stand at the top of the church tower and see the panoramic view, I was not at all disappointed. All the way up the tight spiral staircase, there was graffiti scratched by those long gone but who made their mark in both skill and initials. Just touching the clearly hand chiselled stonework was a delight to the touch and to the eye. I was shown the bells but more on that another day, onwards & upwards to the roof and WOW...  what a view!
It was just wonderful to see the panorama of countryside, harvest gold in the late afternoon sunshine and to smell that wonderful  warm scent of recently baled straw. 

 Also, rescued from the original roofing before more modern lead was put into place ...
these old and rather intriguing  lead panels ... 

An old fen clog print, a traced hand with splayed fingers and a simple stylistic windmill
which is dated 1863.
The church has a long and fascinating history which in time I will get to learn more about.
Inside the church some of the relatives of the famous Oliver Cromwell are buried here.
For now, things are incredibly busy and taking up my time sorting out, so folks, I will do a post as and when I can but just for now, wherever you are, I wish you good spaces and for me at least this past weekend, my good space was on the top of an old church tower!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


This August Bank Holiday weekend was intended to be a break from sorting out things here. Dafad here just needed some purely personal time out from sorting out. Well the best laid plans and all that, things didn't quite work out that way but more on that another day.
The last few mornings have started off with clinging damp mist before the heat of the day.
Yesterday was the last morning that "the under gardeners" were to spend here and oddly enough they seemed to sense it as they were both very clingy and following me about.
Now, I know we should not anthropomorphise, but they indeed seemed to sense that something was different and were definitely acting differently from how they have been over the last week. I too felt rather sad to see them go but they had done their work.
The main apple orchard was looking wonderful, the trees neatly trimmed to "ewe head height" the grass looking suitably neatly manicured to sheep nibbling length and the apple trees had all their lower branches munched to ewe head height, so that the mower can easily pass beneath. The veg garden was looking well munched apart from the sturdier plants  and as for the dividing hedge well that had been well and truly thinned out at ewe level height so that one could actually see the wood bar the leaves and as I found out today, tidying underneath the overgrown hedge was one helluva lot easier. The did a tedious job (to me at least) which has been very neatly done. Bless them both!
I shall miss them eating all the fallen apples, a job I will once again have to do myself but at least they can go to feed my friends pigs, sweetening that future pork with ciderness.
Meanwhile in the last of the late flowers the bees and butterflies were busy gathering too.

All too soon so it seems, this lovely garden is reaching its peak of productivity, but at least as August reaches its close, the garden will be looking much better thanks to two ewes!! 

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Today was the last day that my under gardeners are needed, they have in just a week done a wonderful job of pruning the shrubs, denuding the apple trees of their lower branches & fruit and ... kept the grass down, with all that as a menu, it is easy to see why they were not particularly interested in the vegetable garden weeds. But hey, at some stage that at least can be rotivated and the chill of winter may kill off many of the roots.
They ate almost everything that wasn't poisonous including trimming the Virginia Creeper rambling over the old barn
<<< what little is left at sheep head height, is already turning into that brilliant vermillion, autumnal red.
The main orchard area is looking just wonderful. The low, heavily fruit laden branches have been "ewe pruned" to the height that either of them could reach ... leaving ample space to get the mower under once the ovine munched grass grows back to mowable height! The back fence is clear of ivy and the Japonica  buddleia and ... nettles have all been munched back to human controllable levels. A mere weeks work for my two cloven footed friends. They finish their sabbatical tomorrow and I shall be sad to see them go, but ... they have become wise to the weak areas of this house & garden and have quickly realised that the greenhouse door does not shut properly ... and have also sussed out that my wombled trellis is passable.

As indeed is the small wrought iron gate between the patio area and the second orchard area. One of them this evening lifted the whole gate off its hinges and next thing I knew they were exploring the main garden and were loathe to be herded back in away from possible poisonous plants!
<<< one could almost imagine them hatching the next cunning plan. Perhaps I should have temporarily named one of them Baldrick! But there was a give away as to which heaved the gate off its hinges and to my surprise it was the more docile of the two that had a tell-tale cut, just below one eye. Some antiseptic powder applied and she was just fine.
If folk tell you that sheep are brainless creatures, let me assure you that they can be as cunning as goats!
Meanwhile in the garden today there were  so many small signs to indicate that a change in the seasons  from summer heading towards autumn are happening one just has to watch out for them.
Like the morning dew drops on the conifer branches and that early morning coolness, but as the sun heats up the blossoms bees &  butterflies gather their last nectar.
And, the dew laden apples are almost ready to be harvested from the tree here.
And ... talking of harvest time, to my delight I saw the round type of bales I see at home.
Now ... can you see one of my walking sticks propped against the centre of the bale?
Well, there are larger bales than that around this area, here is a stack ...
Can you see my walking stick in the middle of the lower of three bales? Well O.K in a round bale my stick reaches the middle but ... just look at the length and you can even imagine the width ...  let me tell you, these bales are supersize! The transporters that carry them take up a lot of the road but the combine harvesters around here need a lead vehicle with flashing lights as they move from one farm to another along fairly narrow Fen roads.
Compared with the above, my harvesting worries account for very little and I know that farmers back home in Wales do not have the acreage that many of these Fen farmers do but there again, the overheads of these flatland farmers must be quite prohibitive.
Soon it will be the poor mans hedgerow harvest and I am really looking forward to it.
Just today I have espied nearly ripe blackberries, and masses of sloes. Autumnal delights!

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Rain stopped play or most of today, but we were lucky her in that unlike adjoining counties, we had no sudden localised flash flood here. Yesterday however was lovely.
It was Dafads turn to be shorn (head only) and it felt good to walk out back into the sunshine feeling lighter headed and no, I had not stopped for a lunchtime drink at the pub!
Now ... I love the elderly willow trees around the village pond, they have the grace of age and yet a youthful sway as their drooping branches, like long hair, sway in the breeze.
Under which on a hot day, one feels gently fanned and cooled down. A lovely sight are the call ducks, whose numbers have been increased since I last wrote about them in my post "Call Ducks on Shrove Tuesday" The new ones are slowly getting used to the dog, who still tries to say hello as he did to the old  ones.
I picked him up from home and we headed off to Burwell, a lovely village whose roots go back nearly 3000 years and is currently the second biggest village in Cambridgeshire, though it certainly doesn't feel big when one is in the centre of it but the heritage is clear.
Just a few yards away from the Post Office is a rather interesting (if more modern) sign.
 On closer inspection, it cleverly combines St Mary's Church ( a beautiful building) the windmill (currently having her top and sails  restored) and its farming connections.
This intersection at the heart of the village, so close to the Post Office was obviously the busy heart of the old community as it is today, though it can  hardly qualify as a hill!
I like shopping here on a Friday for several reasons. A wonderful bakery with bread made from home ground flour, their G.I loaf is the best I've ever tasted. The butcher knows exactly where his meat comes from all local farms some just across the nearby border. 
and on a Friday there is a fresh fish van whose fish is quite simply top quality and the only place where I can buy cod cheeks. Rather like flattened scallops to look at, they are so simple to cook and very tasty! She also has the best honey smoked salmon I've ever tasted
Shopping done, it was time to head towards home but just outside the village is a lovely footpath where the patient dog could  stretch his legs after being confined to the car.
 With his arthritic fore joints and my arthritic body, the flat landscape is easy going and it was lovely to walk through the recently harvested corn fields where huge flocks of pigeons were gleaning the left over grains that the combine harvester had left behind.
Seeing how very fat they were, pigeon pie came to mind but I had enough food in the boot.
I loved this yellow lichen growing on an old gatepost leading to a recently harvested field as well as the stark contrast of the ivy encompassed trunks of the clearly elderly ash trees.
In the hedgerows either side of the bridle path, blackberries and elderberries were ripening. Small green sloes were forming on the blackthorn. All signs of the fact that  autumn in all it's colourful glory will so very soon be upon us, like these fallen leaves.
 Hawthorn, Field Maple and Hazel are all slowly losing their robes of summer green. I am looking forward to going for a walk with a basket into which can go an autumnal feast.
Thoughts of jams, pickles, deserts, frozen goodies in the deep freeze and of course sloe gin!
And on those food for almost free thoughts , I shall say "Bon nuit."

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Well, as I said yesterday, the arable farmers were desperately trying to get their harvest in before the rain front moved in and dampened all the crops and last night, rain it did.
I awoke this morning to the pluvial pattern of raindrops on the window pains. A wet day!
Having come downstairs, and said "Good morning" to the two ewes, I got  a muted reply.
One, as many of you may have noticed has too much fleece, bad enough in the last weeks of hot weather but this morning her coat of too much wool was just drenched and heavy with all the overnight rain.
Well Dafad here had already planned on getting her sheared and so had been preparing a pen in the enclosed space behind the large compost heaps. Hoping that with the clever use of old doors found in the barn here, that it would be enough to pen her in for shearing.

Meanwhile as I was trying to sort out some tools and generally trying to tidy up the greenhouse, two inquisitive ovines came nosing in to see just what I was up to. They have free range of half of the garden here and as you will have already read, done a good job de-weeding the veg garden and the two apple orchards. The rest of the garden has plants apparently poisonous to sheep (such as azaleas)so are blocked off from visiting that area. They are getting increasingly more confident and definitely nosey! Note the extra wool on Donner, time for a de-fleece to lose that extra, rain sodden and heavy weight. Not needing to be baled for the wool marketing board,  the wet fleece doesn't matter.

Into the makeshift pen they both went and after a bribe of lots of ewe nuts they settled down well enough to be trimmed of all that extra wool weight that they were carrying.
Now, having no professional  shearer on hand, they had to make do with a total amateur. So ... the clip was not as neat and tidy as could have been and there was no fleece as such to roll and bale (it was full of burrs anyway) but at least she was free of all that extra weight. Much cooler!

Now ... 
don't blame the pink handled shears on me, they were lent to me by a friend and are labelled, wait for this "Gardening shears." After a bit of sharpening, they became sheep shears this afternoon, the closest they got to gardening was to remove all the burrs caught in Donners' fleece. She seems to attract them in a way that Bramley doesn't. Donner is definitely the most assertive ewe and tried her hardest to get out of the makeshift pen.
She really did not like having the over long wool, burrs & dags removed from her and a bit of a battle ensued.
The only blood drawn was from the shearer, who had a bit of a slip with the shears when Donner tried to win won over but the shearer won!
The compost heap is now wool enriched & all the gathered droppings are also included, in two years time the compost out of the middle bin will be good to go on the veg garden!
And as for "Madame" she quite obviously felt much better not carrying that extra weight.
Fleece free!
For the rest of the day she seemed much less irritable (I'm not surprised) who wouldn't be wearing a winter coat during the blistering hot summer days that we've had recently. And ... according to the weather forecast, last nights rain was just a watering can for  us gardeners and we are due more blistering hot days. At least one sheep will be happier!
But I still prefer Badger Faces, even if not quite pure breed!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Yesterday, I took a short break from administering to Dads estate, a welcome reprieve.
I drove out to see Charlie the dog trainer, who (bless him) with all his many years of experience  had never seen such a young dog with such severe crepitus of the joints.
But fair play to the daft dog, he is still gentle and kind and willing to make new friends.
On the way back, we stopped at an old watering hole, a lovely place  only to find that since May of this year, dogs are no longer allowed.
Such a shame as, with the mad mutt struggling, a walk in the shade of the trees would have been ideal for him, plus  a very cooling, relaxing swim. Sadly it was not meant to be.
So ... we wandered slowly along a nearby footpath, only to witness some local harvesting.
The dust raised by these voracious machines, filling a quiet afternoon with a haze of dust.
It was obvious to me that given the rain potentially forecast, these farmers are working as hard as they possibly can, tying to get a good dry crop in before the forecast front is due.
And oh my, like so many farms around here, they are working very hard even late into the night and whilst driving locally the traffic is often slowed by these big machines.
On one side of the dividing hedge there was the grain crop  being actively  harvested and yet with just a field boundary between the two, the later potato crops are still in flower.
As were the poppies, so reminiscent of Remembrance Day with their bright red petals

<<< This one was unusual in that the petals were crinkly not smooth and stood out amongst the crowd growing along the side of the dry, dusty old farm track. I also ate my first ripe elderberries of the year though the sloes were still green and far from ripe yet. Traditionally they are picked after the first frost, hopefully a long way off yet.

Returning back to the car the combine harvester was offloading all that it had just reaped

from the field and a fountain of grain was being poured into a patiently waiting trailer which then drove off  to put this load into nearby storage on the farm. Not many minutes later it was driving back into position awaiting the next heavy load to be poured in.
Hopefully ... most of this years grain harvest in the Fens will be well stored by now.