Saturday, July 31, 2010

Retail therapy

Don't get me wrong - I'm not mired in the Slough of despond. Not by any means. I remain fairly chipper. Quite chipper anyway. The cream jug is still half full.

I can't help feeling though that a few days of sunshine would lift the spirits; the summer I can recall with certainty was on May 21st, 22nd and 23rd and it's been downhill since. The cooler, damper, more humid weather has made the garden grow for certain. This is a Good Thing. (See how even in the face of massive weed invasion and borders like the Mato Grosso I remain resolutely upbeat?) Our holiday is ages off as well....

And another thing: those bastard poultry mites can clear off. I've given eradication my best shot. I've blow-torched out the three houses and sprayed each 3 times as per the instructions on the container. I've begun a course of treatment for the birds which they are not being terribly cooperative about. I've itched and scratched, looked stupid in all sorts of hats, masks, overalls and gloves and still some buggers remain in the nooks and crannies.  But ha! I know for a fact there are many thousands of thousands less. And this is A Good Thing too.

Retail therapy is called for. I believe it is a proven fact that shopping is good for you. Not the grocery/toilet paper/compost/petrol-for-lawnmower/new tyres sort of shopping but the uplifting feel-good sort involving frivolous things of utter gorgeousness.  It's a bit limited round here but still possible. What did I come up with?

Here's my purchase: a scrumptious leather bag from Matt Fothergill's shop in Clun.

Soft and smooth, it smells divine - to me at least. We think the colour - it's not a brown or a grey or a black - is best described as 'dark elephant'.
The inside is soft and green, like a hawthorn hedge in spring. Lots of handy capacious pockets to hold life's essentials. I make a mental note to keep the detritus of till receipts, tissues and toffees that tend to lurk at the bottom of my bags to a minimum. This is a bag. Not a bin.
I also - and I will say this very, very, quietly because it is still July - bought a Christmas present. Quite a successful outing.

I'm off now to stroke it's lovely sides and inhale a bit of  that new leather aroma. For medicinal purposes only.....ah, that's better. I feel quite restored.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thought for the day:

The pick-up has developed a disconcerting squeak. It would be impossible to arrive anywhere unannounced in it. The Glam Ass, spotting a quiet moment at Jack's Tyres in Welshpool, got it put on the ramp to see if he/they could spot the problem. (He/they could, but I've forgotten what it was.)

The usually chirpy Gary, obviously having a Bad Day, announced:

'If it's got tits or wheels it's trouble.'


Monday, July 26, 2010

Lumps and bumps

I'm curious.

The landscape's mysterious man-made lumps and bumps are tantalising. Silent clues to the past which I so wish could talk. Who built what? And why? What were their lives like? Who trudged, spat, shivered, loved, lived and died? Kids must have been kids....what games did they play? I just ache with wanting to know.

Doreen has beguiled a young archaeologist into giving us a conducted tour of a local Iron Age hill fort - the Beacon Ring.
I've cancelled all other engagements - this is a 'must do' opportunity.

The Beacon Ring is about a mile from where I live and a fairly significant landmark. Two huge masts which transmit television signals across mid-Wales dominate the site. They're quite useful - meaning we can always spot somewhere near home.

The earthwork is a fortified site built on the southern reaches of the Long Mountain, before Wales and England emerged as separate nations. We were all Britons then. To celebrate the Queen's coronation in 1953 it was someones inspired idea to plant the area - a well defined upland 'ring' with stunning views to east and west - with a mixture of Beech and Sequoia spelling out 'ER II'. That's commemorative, arboreal graffiti if you like, as if giving it a description makes this destructive planting of an Ancient Monument any more excusable. The detail is visible only from above of course. You can check it out on Google Earth.
Here is the view, looking north west over the Severn plain towards the Cambrian Mountains. Anyone approaching from this direction and  intent on wreaking destruction would be out of breathe and good for nothing after the steep climb up the bank I think.

CPAT have now acquired the site and plan a study of the site which will involve not only archaeological investigation lasting decades but also the removal of trees and restoration of the land to more sympathetic use. Hurrah for them.

These lumps and bumps are so well defined but have apparently not been surveyed before although the site is quite well known - being allegedly the place where St Elystan/Edelstan (and who gave his name to Trelystan) died in battle around 1000AD and a place where many skirmishes must have taken place in those restless times. Hard to imagine now, as we stand and look out on the quiet landscape spread beneath us, and hear only the rustle of a faint breeze through those commemorative beech trees and the 'gronk' of Ravens dancing on the wing.

My imagination has already gone into overdrive. My mind's eye sees men lugging earth and stone to construct ditches and banks - with tools a modern builder would laugh at. I see battles and bitter winters when a wicked wind howls up the valley......but there would also be days like today where under summer skies we can amble slowly through knee length grass and pick sweet wild berries.....

Tell me more. Let there be treasure, something. Gold. Post holes. Anything.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chicken stuff again (I really should get a life...)

The chickens, now aged 6 weeks, are on the field at last. Hurrah. This is A Good Thing. The garage has been restored to garage-dom but not car storage and I must look at a dusty Audi outside the kitchen window for a bit longer. Quite a lot longer I suspect and this is Not A Good Thing.
Not a good picture I'm afraid - they are not in the least compliant about lining up neatly for the team photo. At present all 13 fit into the little house but at the rate they are growing they will need to move on soon. I have 7 cockerels still looking for a home. The picture below is of their father, a handsome chap.

Elsewhere in my poultry empire the dreaded red mites have come back to bite me and once again I am taking remedial action. Today I've cleared and blow-torched one house and tomorrow will apply some foul and lethal chemical to all surfaces, cracks and crevices. The prospect of doing this to the other two  houses does not thrill - neither does the thought of catching and treating 22 uncooperative birds.

The mere thought is too itchy scratchy for words - having showered and put on clean clothes I'm switching off hen thoughts and thinking 'big glass of chilled white wine' instead. Cheers.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pretty wonderful really isn't it?

Anybody remember January? January when the snow was as deep as a dog in a dingle? In the bleak mid-winter indeed. I'd stand at the window in a room with the log burner roaring and stretch my imagination. Leaves, flowers and fruit; an impossible notion. Suffice then to be sheltered and dream. Would green and warm and frutiful ever happen?

It's been a long slow haul this year; a late spring and dry months since. I'm an impatient soul and find it hard to tick off the produce we have actually enjoyed to date. I have worked hard on the garden - I want to reap the benefits. In truth there has been much to enjoy already.
Today I picked beans, courgette, cucumber, raspberries and (as they would say in these parts) a ruck of basil. I feel as if summer's harvest is now coming in. This is how it should be.

That ruck of Basil - what a wonderful herb it is. We will have pasta with prawns and pesto tonight. A handful of basil, pine nuts and Parmesan; a little garlic and seasoning and a gloop of olive oil. Wish I could say I made like it an Italian matron and using pestle, mortar and muscle power. Nope, it's all whizzed up in the Magimix, seasoning adjusted and ready to serve. Plenty for tonight and plenty to stir into new potatoes or dip a bread stick into. Oh, what greedy souls we are.

Pretty good really. I count my blessings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drizzle.... must be July. In Wales.

We're in the clouds tonight, up here on the top of the Long Mountain.

I may well be still thinking that we've only just got over a particularly bleak winter but in truth the past couple of months have been fantastic. I have the farmer's tan and the Birkenstock-ed feet to prove it. Rain has fallen infrequently and at night. That may be inconvenient in one respect - plants have needed watering - but has also meant we have spent much time outdoors. We've cooked outside quite a lot - and I realise that while I'm not too bothered about barbecued food I do love sitting in the garden, glass in hand,  feeling the day ebb away. Things to see, hear and smell - late birds and bats dodge and dart over the dingle and the scent of lavender and dianthus hangs in the warm air. Occasionally the rustle of a breeze or the low of a distant beast breaks the silence. My thoughts turn to the end of the day when we are on Paxos - days which can hardly be described as busy for us visitors - but at twilight the buzzing of the little boats and motor bikes has stopped, the inky Ionian is still and stirred only by the slightest slap of water meeting the harbour wall. The lights of Loggos twinkle. All is well with my world......

....Back to the here and now - tonight I am on the top of a low mountain in Wales. At hen-shutting-in time I felt the prickle of wet against my face and watched mist wind over the dark face of  Badnage Wood. It's in no way unpleasant, but rather fresh and clean.

We're in the process of moving the hens to different enclosures - in theory an easy task, but in reality a logistical nightmare involving temporary pens and much cursing on behalf of the Glam Ass. (Erecting 200m of electric poultry fencing with one's husband surely qualifies as grounds for divorce?) This complicates the shutting-in task, as does chasing a sheep and persuading the Rhode Island Reds that inside is a better bet than on the roof. (I have a theory that hens are so hard to herd because they have eyes on the side of their heads. Well? Have you a better one?)

Plenty of time then to appreciate the cool damp night as I stand in the field with my stick, alternately whupping the tops off thistles and nudging birds along. Not really enough rain to do much good at all in the garden. Those peas and beans really do need water.

Better be careful of what I wish can have too much of a good thing.

Later - Tuesday:

Well, the hens are now relocated - each in their own little enclosure, closely mown and surrounded by electric fence (though don't tell Mr Fox that until the battery is charged it isn't a threat). It looks like text book poultry keeping. I'm sending up silent prayers to whichever god is responsible for wheels on hen-houses; despite the gloomiest of the Glam Ass's predictions, which stretched to several day's worth of moaning, hauling a hen house behind the little yellow tractor was a walk in the park. We finished staking, stretching mesh and cable-tying at mid-day - and are still speaking. Call the divorce lawyers off.

Drizzle still embraces the Long Mountain. The air is still fresh and clean.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My contender for the most boring purchase of 2010

£286.00!!! Splutter. Gulp. Gasp.

That nearly covers the cost of a flight to NYC. It's almost half a coveted iPad.  It could be something yummy and stroke-ably lovely....sigh

....but is in fact 2 new tyres for my car.  As thrilling a purchase as toilet cleaner, dishcloths or mouse traps. Gulp again.

A flat tyre warranted investigation at Jack's Tyres in Welshpool and investigation revealed both front tyres to be worn to a point of danger due to faulty tracking.  A blow-out at any point and especially at speed, was apparently a real possibility. Even my small, fluffy and unmechanical brain knew this was not A Good Thing and that making good was going to cost money. We'll gloss over the fact that Jack's Tyres fitted the last set and might just have noticed that the aforesaid tracking wasn't right before letting me drive off.

The eponymous Jack rustled up the least expensive tyres he could find and one of his team of oily young men fitted them and adjusted the tracking. If these are 'mid-range' how much are the expensive ones? And who, apart from Arab Sheiks, can afford to buy them? And why?

Still, I'm safer now than I was 24 hours ago and as much as I resent coughing up nearly 300 smackers for something as unsexy as tyres I know it's preferable to ending up as a mess on the highway.

See what I mean? Surely one of the ugliest and unwantable objects possible.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A detour

There I was, minding my own business in downtown Trelystan, pinning a poster to the 'village' noticeboard when I was hailed by an urgent looking and very lost lady.

Did I know where the pony-trekking centre was?

A quick think - and I swear that one could hear all the cogs whirring in my head - and erm, yes. I did.

Giving directions though was a different matter - this lady and the two excited girls giggling in the back of her car didn't seem up to taking extra information on board. They were late for a pony-trekking-party date. Late, late, late. It was all getting A Bit Too Much.

Would I take them there? Well I would but my car was seriously short of fuel and while I thought I might just about coast down the hill to Welshpool a 12 mile detour (and yes, these poor souls had gone round and round in so many circles that there were THAT far off target) wasn't possible.

Could I come with them - and she'd drive me back to my car?

So it was that I hopped into a car with three strangers and led them off down the lane which runs along the side of the Long Mountain - a lane so skinny, narrow and underused that one seems to be entering a lost world. We glide between long grass and wildflowers on the roadside and glimpse hidden bosky valleys through gaps in hedges hung with honeysuckle and roses. We agree the landscape is beautiful in these parts.

We found the pony trekking centre - which also had holiday cabins and an idyllic view over the Rea valley. The excited little girls rushed off to their pony-trekking-birthday-treat and their mother, good as her word dropped me back at my car. She was a lovely lady and I hope one day we'll meet again.

It was only afterwards when I started to think about the strangeness of this interlude that I wondered about the wisdom of disappearing to goodness-knows-where in a stranger's car. Not really from my point of view; she didn't fit the profile of the average axe murderer and I don't think I'm white slave material, but what about the two little girls and all those lectures about 'stranger danger'? What messages were given to them about caution and judicious behavior regarding strangers when mum whisks someone she has only met moments ago, off in her car? I hope she talks it through with them. Perhaps the message that not all strangers are potentially dangerous is a good one too.