Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And it's still only November

I stood here not quite 12 months ago - in early January when we were snowed in. I photographed the same view under much the same conditions - how good it is to have another shot at it:

I like the hill's simple, elegant, bleak beauty under a tenebrous and snow laden sky. Tomorrow the quality of light will be different again. Another challenge.

The thermometer tells me it is warmer today but a brisk wind makes me think otherwise. If it's like Siberia in the shelter of the garden it is like double Siberia up on the hill where the hens live.

So glad I'm not a hen.......

Sunday, November 28, 2010

White Wales

Tonight? It's  -7 degrees under the cat-slide and falling. Not the chilliest place in the country but cold enough thank you.
Clear blue skies today - but yesterday as above. Here we look west over the Severn Valley and across to the Welsh Mountains. (Powis Castle is almost dead centre.) Perhaps it is because we see this view in monochrome so rarely that this white world is so stunning. I stop the car. I gulp. Inhale. Take it all in and take a picture or two. Jeez, it's cold on the fingers.

The roads were like glass. On Friday I had chickened out completely and turned round - disgruntling the Glam Ass who seemed to relish the idea of a downhill roller-coaster ride. Turning back for home was the better option - either that or my passenger would find himself turfed out onto the side of the road. There are only so many barked 'Keep Your Foot off the Gas! - Don't Brake!' instructions a girl can take as the car, by the sheer force of gravity alone, slithers ever downwards........WTF am I supposed to do then!

I resort to being a weak and feeble woman - albeit a sensible one with all limbs and car intact. The GA reconciles himself to being without a newspaper.

The Council gritting lorry trundled by about an hour later.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In which I confront my inner Nigella

Oh heck. The festive season looms and in its wake the prospect of entertaining and being entertained. Parties. Nights out in one's best bib and tucker; dressing up in something much smarter than the national dress of Trelystan - about which we will mention only the words, jeans, fleece and wellies.

'Smart' means a trip to the back of the wardrobe and revisiting some old favourites. Add a pretty top and my lovely pearls and all is usually well. We scrub up well round here.

Last night saw the first Christmas dinner - a gentle practice run for all those others which will certainly follow.

I sit at the dressing table, showered, dressed and perfumed, coaxing a strand of hair into place when the thought occurs that from this angle, and dressed like this - I'm wearing a low 'v'-necked cashmere sweater - there is something of the delectably generous Nigella Lawson about me. Perhaps it is the billowing embonpoint..... then I stand up and all illusions vanish. Perhaps it is something to do with her apparent statuesque height and my lack of it. Her body seems firmer somehow and I find myself wondering what erm, underpinnings she uses to keep it all in hand (so to speak).

I'll bet it's nothing like this grotesque ensemble to the left - which I've no wish to wear either. Eurgh! Some of these are even worse. Eurgh, eurgh, eurgh. Just imagine smelling of rubber for a start......

Anyway I breathe in and go out, hoping for the best. A good meal was eaten and afterwards I resolve that should I be offered 'seconds' over the next few weeks I shall conjure up the 'wonderful reducing corset' as a deterrent and politely decline. It might work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In which I risk boring my dear readers.....

Yes, we are still here - although arguably difficult to find this week - low cloud has shrouded the Long Mountain. We have been swathed in grey swirling dampness, shut in, remote and insular. Our world tightens to our field of vision. All sounds are muffled, dulled - but really all our senses are heightened; we taste this weather on our tongues, smell mud and muck and sniff; kick late autumn's dank leaves and 'burn' fingers on the freezing cold of gate or bucket.

At some point in the week there was a great moving of cattle - bringing them down off the fields and in for the winter.  Although only 6 or 7 are visible here, trust me there were many more. Now we only have sheep.

A precious stone?
The Glam Ass, mooching through the dingle, climbs the fence and wanders up the stream. He finds a stone unlike any other stone hereabouts. It is lying in the bed of the stream. It is a thing of beauty. Brought home and caressed it sits in the hand as if were tailor-made. It could chip and hammer. We both so want it to be a neolithic tool.

We will dream on.

From the hen-houses on wheels:

One egg today. One. Better than none I suppose.

I've just counted up - and to my surprise there are 27 potential layers. That many. Crikey! How did that happen? (Thank you SBS for bringing me another 3 refugees!)

Of that 27, nine are point-of-lay which to my mind partly explains the low egg count. Of the others, well some are moulting having laid well this spring/summer and the remainder? Probably just unproductive slackers.

Eeek! Have just remembered - am collecting 2 young Blue Marans tomorrow to add to the flock. That will make 29 pot. layers then....Best not to tell the GA - he sees expensive food going in one end and nothing edible coming out of the other and questions are asked about the sense in keeping old birds that don't lay. I know, I know, quite agree etc but I'm a soft touch and prepared to give them a good retirement.

The night they broke the bank at Monte Carlo Marton
Marton's Village Hall's most recent fund raiser was a Casino Night - for which we received most generous sponsorship from local businesses. One of those sponsors, the son of a local feed merchant, (that's Will Barnes of Inspector Gadjo Trio, son of Nigel Barnes of Powys Leys...) gave his latest CD - which at the end of the evening I bid for and won. (Try the link.) Sat and listened last evening as we sat in front of the wood burner with our 2 snoring dogs - a bit incongruous; the sort of jazz best suited to smoke filled rooms. Felt fairly chilled anyway. Metaphorically speaking.

Nest Saturday there is a craft fair. Never a dull moment eh?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's for supper?

The nights draw in and the weather is damp and raw. Wild winds have blown the last leaves off the trees and the landscape is curiously light and spacious. I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off. We come in from the garden rubbing our hands to restore the circulation, sniffling in the welcoming warmth of the kitchen. Comfort food is called for - a warm nourishing rib-sticking stew is on the menu tonight.

The Glam Ass was dispatched to find the main ingredient - not an easy task as most people locally must have had the same idea -  and with only one per animal supply was outstripping demand. No, no, no. Not a bull's pizzle - an oxtail.

Here the hunter (with the help of his own assistant, Chester) shows off his prize, which he tracked down in the chiller of Welshpool butcher's 'Rikki Lloyd'. He came out of the shop carrying something which could have been mistaken for a gift-wrapped shalalee.

What a curious thing it is when seen like this and not swinging at the rear end of a cow or packed neatly in a plastic tray - or even arranged artfully with potatoes and greens.

That's more like it - dusted with flour and ready to be cooked very gently with some flavoursome stock, vegetables, herbs and a glug of wine. Plenty of time to time to sit by the fire and read the newspaper while it cooks and the light falls outside. Hours in fact.
Something like 3 hours later it's ready to be scoffed - by which time of course we were so hungry that all thoughts of photographing the artfully arranged end result was forgotten. Readers, we ate it.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Games, candles, not worth the, etc.

I spy kitchen chaos. I spy the Glam Ass making ver juice. What?

Green nasty sour stuff that's what. Its very name has a medieval ring to it.

In days gone by and places far away it was probably juice from unripe grapes but in Trelystan in the first week of November 2010 it's derived from crab apples from our neighbour's tree. In days gone by it was probably valued for its acidic and astringent qualities - but is now (apparently) having a bit of revival in modern kitchens. I blame celebrity chefs.

The GA has got out the amazingly-complicated-juicing-machine (I counted at least 6 demountable parts - none of which will go into the dishwasher....) and is thrashing a basket full of apples into submission. The resultant jus, strained through muslin, is foul. Absolutely foul. The work of the Devil.
Give me a squirt of lemon juice any day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What, when...but where?

We know 'what' - and as it's November 4th we'll take the 'when' for granted.

Yes, it's time for the Chirbury and Marton annual Bonfire Night bonfire again. Under cover of darkness last night an aggressive advertising campaign started on our lanes:

But 'where' is the question.

One would think with all these big 'arrers' it would be pretty obvious but I've neither stumbled across it or had to give way to a stream of tractors and trailers laden with brushwood, old timber and general farmyard detritus. A possible explanation is that it's not yet been built.

Still, there's just over 24 hours to go - plenty of time to put something the size of a 3 storey building together......

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Normal. For Trelystan.

You get up.

You think - 'Today I will do a, b and c'. Tra la.

I skip downstairs to start the day and discover something nasty on the floor of the utility room. Neither dog admits responsibility. I clear it up.

Off I go to let the hens out and find something even nastier seeping from the septic tank. I watch a, b and c disappear over the horizon. I let the Glam Ass eat his toast before breaking the news.

I would have thought, all things considered, that this was a good excuse to Get a Man In. But no. In no time at all my own man has donned his  boiler suit, wellies and rubber gloves. The poorly hand is under at least 2 layers of protective clothing and he's off before my squeak of 'Watch that hand' reaches his ears. The inspection covers come off - slowly because screwdrivering is now quite difficult - and the problem can be assessed.

Adrian who has been helping us do some gardening while we have been a hand short comes over to look as well. What is it about a hole in the ground that arouses so much interest - even one as horrid as this?

I'm not going to go into detail here but Adrian volunteers to dig the tank out; grabbing the spade and getting stuck in without any cajouling or offers of vast sums of money. We watch in amazement. Bless him, bless him, bless him. The man is a saint. Or stupid.

I am dispatched to buy bags of pea gravel to bed down the leveled up chamber (technical stuff this - impressed?) It turns out that in a former life Adrian was a ground worker so what he doen't know about installing things like this isn't worth knowing.

The Glam Ass of course can't resist helping, injured hand or not - and this probably isn't a good idea. When I return The Hand is quite swollen from the exertion - but he's a happy man. Doing stuff again. Normal nearly.

Progress of a sort I think.

PS - He's just made an Ikea bookcase - no stopping him now!