Saturday 12 November 2016

What a Nerve!

The last couple of weeks have been painful.   Initially I thought I had lost a filling but it turned out that I had cracked a tooth almost down to the pulp.   To cut a long story short, it was excruciatingly painful, not so much the tooth but all along the nerve pathways on that side of my jaw and face.

I have been miserable company, hardly able to get beyond the pain.    Now that the tooth has been soothed and settled, at least for the time being, I am human again.

It was unfortunate that the Bonfire Night celebrations fell during this time.    I managed to help out with the catering, organisation and the clearing up but I fear that I was poor company and definitely lacked lustre.    I was in pain and, at times, had to simply walk off into darkness to clutch my jaw and go 'ouch, ouch, ouch'... or something similar!

It was a brilliant evening, a little rough around the edges,  but for a first time event with unknown numbers to be catered and cared for, I think our Village Hall Committee did pretty well.

Photographs would have been nice - alas! I was so caught up with simply doing and being (as well as the pain) that I forgot to take my camera.     The bonfire and guy were excellent, the fireworks and sparklers delighted, and the food warmed hands.

Sixty or more people attended and the general consensus was that they would love to see it become an annual event.   So would we.     It was simple, safe and fun.    No doubt some attended and then made their way to the pub, some went home quite happily to watch 'Strictly' and the rest gathered some wine and the leftovers and happily chatted on until the early hours of the morning.

The next event is the Christmas Bazaar and Mince Pie Tasting.    

Again, this is one of those events which could work well, or may be a damp squib.    I have tried to ignite some competitive spirit among the locals, but sometimes I wonder whether it is worth the effort.   I hope my usual mojo will return, but right now I find it an effort.

Threaded in an around the misery and woe I have also been on a trip to Leeds, with Poppy and Miles.  Miles had some matters to attend, so Poppy and I hit the shops.   I am truly not a city girl, but I did my best.   Poppy took great care of this country mouse and made sure that my bag was firmly closed and that I didn't get lost.    She is great fun and marvellous company.

We refueled with some Vietnamese street food -much more delicious than it looks.

Then we paid a visit to Hell, otherwise known as Ikea.   I have never been inside one of their shops before and I hope never to return.    It took a week to find the exit.

On the home front, I have made two huge Christmas cakes.   The fruit was soaked in brandy for three days before baking and the cakes will be gently anointed each week.     One of the cakes is for Miles and Poppy.    I am going to give them a 'naked' cake so that Poppy can have the fun of icing/decorating the cake however she likes.     We usually just have marzipan on ours as we don't like icing.

Other than that, life chugs along pretty much as normal.    I am miles behind with blog reading, commenting, book club reading.    

Today is a new day.  

Saturday 22 October 2016

Haybox Construction - A Really Slow Cooker

I have long been fascinated by the idea of hay box cookery - ever since I was a child and read about it in one of the Fell Farm series of books.         Food could be put into a box of hay and hours later it would still be hot and perfectly cooked?  How could that be possible?   It seemed incredible to me then and I still like the idea now.

I know we don't really need one, the Rayburn does all the cooking while also heating the house and the water.   It is simply to satisfy my curiosity.  

My long-suffering husband is going to make one for me, using the instructions from an old book on Haybox construction and cookery.

This illustration gives one method.   It is slightly different from the old book which I have, but the basic principle is the same.

Image borrowed from:

You simply need a strong wooden box with a tight-fitting lid, make sure there are no open cracks.
The box should  be well lined to keep it as airtight as possible.    You could use old newspapers covered with old blanket and lined with calico - or modern insulating materials.   Definitely not the asbestos sheets which this book recommends!

Pack the box really tightly with small balls of newspaper, almost filling the box.  To go on top of the filling, make two calico cushions which should be tightly stuffed with balls of paper.

The lid of the box should be hinged on one side and the other fixed with a hook so that the inside of the box is as well insulated as possible, so the two cushions should press well down on top of the filling.

The idea is to make sure that the hot food put into the box continues to cook as long as possible in its own heat.     Therefore it needs to be as hot as possible when it is put in.     In general it is suggested that food should be cooked for a third of the time that it would normally take to cook by heat, then it should be quickly transferred to the hay box.    It should then be left in the closed hay box for at least twice as long as you would normally cook it, although you could leave it for longer.

Other uses of a haybox.

Washing - stains can be removed if cloths are put in cold water with a little borax, brought to the boil and then left for six hours in the hay box.

Shaving water can be ready first thing in the morning if it is boiled at night and then left in the haybox.

Chicken Food can be cooked through the night, ready for a warm feed in the morning - just don't mix up which pan has the hens' mash and which one holds the porridge.

Note:  It is essential that the saucepan transferred to the hay box should be nearly full and the contents brought to boiling point before they are put in, which must be done as quickly as possible so that the minimum amount of heat is lost.

I just need to find a suitable wooden box; for some reason he is reluctant to let me experiment on the little wooden trunk which he uses as a bedside cabinet.   Meanie!

It is also worth pointing out that we should be careful about what books we give to our children...

Happy Birthday to my youngest.     Thirty-four years old, today!    See you later.  xxx

Thursday 20 October 2016

Fun and Games with Angels, Pickles and a Mince Pie Bake-Off!

The nights are drawing in and I am fighting my natural inclination to go into hibernation mode.   

This is made worse because the two cats and Dobson seem determined to wake me early each morning.  Yesterday was even worse than normal as Dobson's frantic scratching at the kitchen door got me out of bed at 5am.       

Naughty Miss Pinkerton had brought a mouse into the house and was throwing it around with glee.   No amount of first aid could help it.

Last night I myself forced to get out of my cosy nest to go along to the chilly village hall, for a meeting.    

The Little Bunting Village Hall Committee had been asked to meet the Dovecote Dell Church Committee, in order to hash out some plans for a Christmas Bazaar.   I know this will send some people over the edge, talking about Christmas in October!   Well it has to be done if people are to be entertained and fed, funds raised and the heart of the village kept beating.

The event will only last for two hours, which should give us just about enough time to create a little jollity, spread the word about other events and raise some funds for both causes.

The chill in the village hall soon receded and we got down to some serious discussions and planning.        It was also felt that we needed something which would provide an element of fun and entertainment, without making people feel that they were simply being 'fleeced' of all their cash...

Ideas and suggestions were bounced around, nothing seemed quite right until we decided to tap into a rich seam of real energy and enthusiasm.

Little Bunting folk have a dark secret - they are very competitive when it comes to baking...

Image is jamie oliver mince pies,
borrowed from his website.

Drum roll........   Our new event is a Mince Pie Bake-Off!    

We hope that some keen local bakers will roll up their sleeves and enter a dozen home made mince pies, bearing in mind that it is highly unlikely that they will get any of them back.   

The idea is that they are to be blind-tasted,  judged and then voted for by the public.     I haven't quite worked out the finer details yet, but I hope the local bakers, especially well known food blogger, Dominic of Belleau Kitchen,  will pull on their aprons, take up their wooden spoons and enter their yummy mince pies.

Also on offer will be a raffle for three beautiful hampers, home made pickles, crafts,  angels, games, tombola and let us not forget that there is a beautifully decorated Christmas Cake waiting to be won.    

Save a little room from sampling all those mince pies though, because refreshments will be available at the back of the hall.

Cue the dancing angels!

Monday 10 October 2016


This afternoon, Poppy was kind enough to give a cookery demonstration at Little Bunting Village Hall.   She freely gave up her time, her food,  and her skills to amuse, entertain and inform a group of us, golden oldies, silvertops, call us what you will.

On second thoughts, village elders will do.

The hall quickly filled with tantalising aromas as garlic, ginger, onions, star anise, chillies both wet and dried and yellow bean paste cooked merrily in the (extremely heavy) wok.

There were two dishes - a deliciously spicy beef one and an extremely popular mixed vegetable dish, all served with perfectly cooked rice.

Chopsticks were offered round and everyone got stuck in.   Some people with slightly less dexterous fingers soon abandoned the chopsticks and used a fork, but other people got a free lesson in how to use chopsticks correctly and were soon proving to be very adept and cleared their plates right down to the last grain of rice.

Fair to say that we all really enjoyed our plate of food and several people came back for seconds!

I don't think our little village hall has smelled so wonderful for many a year, if ever.   The atmosphere of gentle friendship and simple fun was very special.    This small gathering, designed to winkle people out of their own homes and into the company of other people for an afternoon of social chit chat and new interests, has definitely started to fulfill the brief.  

Poppy, you are a brilliant cook and a superstar for producing such delicious food, especially under these difficult conditions, and for being so generous with your skills and time.  

Thank you.  xxx

Sunday 9 October 2016

The Remarkable Oak Tree and the Alderman

Nothing scary about this photograph,  the ghostly forms are simply raindrops on the camera lens.      I wanted to get a photograph of this particular tree, though, so I nipped out of the car to get one.   I sank up to my oxters in mud, but at least I got the shot!

It is an oak tree, a most remarkable oak tree, because it is reputed to be over a thousand years old.   In 1841 it was measured as having a trunk circumference of 33' with the trunk being a mere shell, yet here it still is, almost two hundred years later.  

Even the earliest Ordnance Survey maps had it shown as  'Remarkable Oak', so safe to say, it is an ancient oak and has been witness to great changes since it was a sapling.   They reckon that oak trees grow rapidly for the first 120 years, not producing acorns until they are about 40 years old, and continue to grow until they are about 300 years old.

They mature for another 300 years and then gradually decay for 300 years, or more, as in this case.  It is a truly ancient oak, that's for sure.

Moving on, I visited a small country church dedicated to St Oswald.

There has been a church here for over 800 years, although this is the 1856 restored church, which retains some interesting earlier windows and monuments.      The restoration and rebuilding cost £500, with another £400 being spent  a couple of decades later on restoring the chancel.

This monument got my attention - it is fairly high up on the wall, so difficult to take a good photograph.

It portrays a family group.   The man is William Ballett who was an Alderman of London.    Facing him are his two wives and above them, their nine children.    He died when he was 99 years of age, in 1648.    Remarkable, when you think that in those days the average expected lifespan was about 40 years!

This long-lived man lived just a few miles from this church, at Woodthorpe Hall, which is located right next to the field in which the Remarkable Oak is located!   He and his family could well have sat in the shade of this tree, which would simply have been in its' mature stage at that time.  Could there be something in the water around there, I wonder.

There are lots more interesting snippets about the church and the people who used it, which I'll share another time.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Life in a Small Village

I love living in the back of beyond, on the edge of nowhere, most of the time.    

However, there are occasions when petty squabbles and misinformation create something of a bubbling witches cauldron of high emotion and one can be splashed and scalded for simply standing too close to the pot.

Little Bunting is a tiny village.   We have three roads, although one is a small street, another, a lane, and the main road through is nothing more than a country lane.   No church, no shop, just a pub and a very small village hall.

Even a very small village hall needs a committee to run it.
A committee needs meetings,
and committee meetings require that the people on the committee are willing to give up their time to sit in a village hall and talk/listen, plan, volunteer and commit yet more time and, often, their own money to make things happen for the people who live in the village.

The local pub enjoy doing Halloween, so we are not planning to do anything for that, wouldn't want to encroach.    However, they don't really do anything for Bonfire Night.   So we are organising a good, old fashioned, Bonfire Night Party.

Nothing fancy just a huge bonfire, a very few fireworks,  and some simple food - jacket potatoes, vegetarian chilli, and possibly some parkin if I get around to making it.    One committee member has kindly agreed to let us use his paddock and barn for the occasion, others are using their contacts to get lots of wood for the bonfire, and the rest of us are providing gazebos, food, etc.   All the details which go into making an event happen.

What would really make it a great experience is if some people turn up to support us!

*   *   *

Little Bunting is on the verge of losing our street lighting.    Soon the men from the council will be around to dismantle it and take away the poles and we shall be plunged into darkness.

This was dealt with by another committee, the Parish Council.   I'm glad I don't have to take the flak for that one.    

We live right at the end of the village and our street light has often been out for months at a time, so it doesn't really make much difference.   I have got used to taking my torch out with me and "wearing something white at night" even if it is just a big scarf because there are no footpaths to our end of the village, so we have to walk along the lane and there is no verge to speak of.  

Some drivers are very courteous; some even pull over to the other side of the lane and slow down as they pass, many don't.  

Last night I walked to the committee meeting in the village hall, it's not far... less than half a mile.    It was dusk when I walked into the village and I was treated to the sight of the lovely barn owl patrolling Arnold's old paddock.    I saw the owl and rejoiced; I saw the empty paddock and the house and felt sad.

Onward, to the village hall.   The Chairman and another committee member were struggling to open the door.   It is always like this, the lock has been a problem forever.     Eventually, the door was opened and we trooped in to set up a couple of tables and pull out the chairs.

Almost two hours later, a meeting which could really have been concluded in less than half that time, finally ended.   We went our separate ways.

My route takes me past Owl Wood.

A wonderful, joyful place in the daylight but by nighttime it become the Witches' Wood.    Trees creak and groan, their long bony fingers reach out and tap one another and mysterious rustlings make one think there is something there.   I speed up and think of home and hot chocolate, anything but witches or bubbling cauldrons.

*  *   *

The photograph shows our village last night.    I took it as I was making my way to the road which takes me home.   Soon those lights will be gone and the village will be plunged into darkness once again.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Triplets in the Owl Wood

Our little patch of woodland is known in 'Blogland'   as   Owl Wood.      That's not the name you will find on any map of the area, but there are three very good reasons why we call it that.  

These three little Tawny owlets were hatched there, a few years ago.

This is one of the licensed 'owl men' who came to weigh and ring the little owlets.   We felt like proud parents!

This is how they looked the first time they were removed and recorded - we felt so privileged to be able to watch this happening.

A short time later they had grown to this size and looked so much more ... fluffy!

Eventually, they grew to look like this - so beautiful!

Each evening, as I take Dobson out for his final walk, I hear the owls calling round and about and I often wonder whether they could possibly be descendants of one of our owls.  

Since that time the owl box has been home to Magpies and squirrels, but the Tawny Owls seem to avoid it.    We keep our fingers crossed, perhaps one Spring the 'To Let' sign will attract them back again.

Unfortunately, Owl Wood has become home to far too many rats, no doubt attracted by the hens food.     We cannot risk poison, of any kind,  so we are having to resort to other methods.

Life and death in a small patch of woodland.

(Linda of  local-kiwi-alien this one is for you.)

Monday 3 October 2016

A Room of my Own

It has finally happened, I have a room of my own.   A craft room, sewing room, hideaway, call it what you will, it is all mine!

At the moment it is still very messy but in time it will be neat and ordered - or maybe not.  

It is such a joy to have most of my 'toys' in one place.    

So many of these things have been tucked away in cupboards and boxes, on top of the highest shelves in the dressing room and generally hidden away.

I am gradually becoming reacquainted with old projects which I can't wait to get my hands on again.

I also managed to find a corner for my beloved painted bureau.    It is full of old letters to and from my parents and other relatives, family memorabilia from fifty or more years ago and boxes of ancient family photographs.

Many more bookshelves are needed, hooks for paintings, an armchair, and my radio.

If I go missing, this is the first room you should check.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Expletives *"@~%$"!!!

Profane, vulgar, obscene words and bad language were not a feature of my childhood.    

Goodness, gracious!
By golly gumdrops!
Well blow me down!
Golly gosh!
or, perhaps occasionally ... Blooming...

were the kind of phrases which my parents used around us.   Indeed, I don't think I ever heard anything stronger than the occasional mild swear word from either of them.   Nor did I hear bad language from friends or their families.   It simply wasn't necessary and it certainly wasn't 'the done thing'.

I checked with Max and he cannot remember his parents using any 'bad' language, ever.

We both grew up in the 1950's and 60's.

My father spent a few years working on Grimsby trawlers as a Radio Operator, so strong language would most definitely have been around down dock, but never at home.

My red-haired mother certainly knew how to get cross and would hurl an occasional angry slipper my way, so it wasn't some fairy tale, Enid Blyton-style, nicey-nicey, household!   Fiery tempers and an angry tone, yes.  Bad language, no.

Why am I muttering on about this?

A few days ago I heard a young child,  about four years of age, come out with some really disgusting language.  The child obviously didn't know what the words meant.   The people I assumed were her parents simply fell about laughing, so did their friends.  So said child gave a repeat performance with embellishments.

So many young people these days pepper their conversations or comments with the f-word, and worse; I don't know whether they are even aware they are doing it.

In this world we are losing our ability to hold a conversation,  information is only useful if it comes in bite-sized pieces, because that is all modern brains seem able to process, hand writing is becoming a thing of the past, and even looking at the real person next to you has been superseded by looking at your telephone screen to see how many people in the world are following you, love you, want to talk to you, etc.

And don't get me started on pronunciation.

When did this silly nonsense of saying 'sicth' instead of 'sixth' become acceptable on the BBC?

I'm going to stop here.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue-ish.  I must walk this nonsense out of my head and enjoy the real day.

Friday 23 September 2016

A Romantic Story

This pretty little church is located a short distance from a country lane.   To reach the church you have to go through the big stone pillars which belong to the Manor House next door.   It feels like trespass.

The exterior of the building is chalk and greenstone.   I imagine the chalk is partly to blame for the poor condition of the building within.

It is tiny, seating capacity just thirty-three.   The roof looks as though it has received some fairly recent attention, so perhaps the rest is on the 'to do' list.  I hope so.

It is pretty damp and soggy on all the walls and a lot of damp is also coming up from the floor.

The church is dedicated to St Leonard and you can see the alabaster statue of him to the right of the photograph.     The monument to the left - unfortunately very high up on the wall and difficult to photograph, commemorates Sir John Bolle, his wife and their eight children.

Sir John died at the comparatively young age of forty-five, but he led a colourful and romantic life.   He was knighted after the expedition against Cadiz in 1596, in which he distinguished himself with great gallantry...but it is less for his warlike deeds, than for his determination not to be ensnared by the wiles of a very wealthy Spanish beauty!

Among the prisoners taken at Cadiz was a rather lovely Spanish lady whom Sir John treated with every courtesy and kindness.   Poor woman, she threw herself at his feet, offered him all her riches and begged him to take her back to England, disguised as his page.

Sir John broke it to her that he was already married and loved his wife and their children and would not break his marriage vows.

She eventually accepted that he was not to be hers and loaded him with jewels, valuables, casks full of plate, money and other treasures to take home to his wife and family.   She then became a nun and spent the rest of her days in sorrow.

Poor Donna Leonorra Oviedo.

Among the treasures which she gave to him was a portrait of herself, wearing a rich green dress.   Somehow, or other, this led the Bolle family to the superstition that a mysterious woman in green could be seen sitting by a particular tree near their Louth mansion - the Spanish Lady.    The story was taken so seriously that during the lifetime of Sir John's heir, his son Charles, a place was always laid at the dinner table for the Green Lady, in case she should choose to dine with them!

The floor of the church has lots of huge slabs of stone which are the markers for lots of other members of the Bolle family.   Sad to see it decaying.

Louth Museum has a sequinned bedcover  given by the green lady to Sir John, a copy of the oil painting of the Donna Leonora and various documents written about Sir John and his family.   There is also a portrait of  Sir John.

The sad, romantic story inspired someone to write an extremely lengthy ballad entitled
"The Spanish Layde's Love"
you can hear the soundtrack of a recording of it, also at the museum.

Thursday 22 September 2016

A Horse, an Ancient Church and lots of Good Fences

This is a photograph which I took quite a while back.

A beautiful horse, a lovely old church,
lots of good fences.

Here's the other side of the church - metal fencing, this time.

The greenstone and chalk church is dedicated to St Leonard
the building is mostly 14th and 15th century
although it is thought to be 10th century in origin.

It is still used occasionally as a place of worship, but the last time I was there it was looking
in dire need of some tender loving care.

The back of the church and the nearby manor house
seen from the top road
plenty of wooden fences in between
plus a good length of well maintained hedge.

We don't normally get much snow in this area
so even a sprinkling like this was magical!

ps.  I have just visited the church today 22.9.16.  It is now in a very sorry state, I'll do a post in a few days, when I have sorted through the photographs.

I'm happy to be joining in with  Teresa at The Run A Round Ranch for Good Fences.

Monday 19 September 2016

Village Elders and Food Art

Our tiny village hall was brought to life this afternoon as my daughter in law, Poppy, gave a demonstration on food art, Chinese style.

First she had to prepare the vegetables - no puny vegetable knife for Poppy!   

Fair to say that we all held our breath as she sliced and shaped the vegetables with her Chinese chopper knife.   

We were happy to note that she had brought plenty of pre-chopped vegetables for us to use, no need for plasters and first aid.

This picture gives you some idea of how much fun we all had as we were given the go-ahead to get decorating a platter for ourselves.

This is one of Poppy's demonstration pieces, luckily we didn't have to do anything quite that complicated.
Even so, faced with a blank platter, we all had a brief panic.

Luckily Poppy was there to lend a helping hand, a tweak here, a tidy there and suddenly our designs looked a whole lot better.

Poppy charmed everyone as she worked her way round the group,

so much, so that she has been invited back next month.

She's really going to spice things up - she'll be cooking and presenting some Chinese food, to be eaten with chopsticks, although alternative 'eating irons' will be available for those with stiff fingers.

Once Poppy gets cooking, and the aroma of her authentic Chinese food wafts around the village, I reckon we'll probably have a few extra mouths to feed.

Sunday 18 September 2016

For One Day Only...

...the peace of our tiny village is shattered, public footpaths are closed and the population is more than doubled.

An Enduro race is hosted by a local farmer.  

The route takes the participants through quite a number of harvested barley fields, along a portion of the old railway line and out into 'our' barley field.

The first race is the one to get the barley harvested, and the straw baled in time.

Not so this year, harvest was completed well before time.

The first competitors begin their circuits at 10.30 am and then, almost magically, on the dot of midday, the noise is stilled and they all stop for lunch.

Racing is resumed at 1.30 p, and by 3 pm the last competitor had completed the final lap.    


"Can we go for a walk now?"

Toodle Pip.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Chinese Moon Festival - An Evening Tea Party in Lincolnshire

The Moon Festival is the second most important Chinese festival so we felt we had to mark it in honour of Poppy, especially since today is also her first birthday to be celebrated since moving to England.

We had plenty of cakes at the ready, but no was a tea party.

Time to make a selection and boil the kettle.

My beautiful Chinese tea service was brought out, Moon Cakes were sliced and very carefully presented  - they may look a little like pork pies, but these particular ones are nutty and sweet.

Poppy presided over the tea kettle and made pot after pot of tea as we all nibbled moon cake and shared a very happy family time.   The youngest member of the party settled for milk, happy to be over at our house and taking part in the fun.  His enjoyment was no doubt enhanced by the fact that his younger sister was at home and tucked up in bed.

We dimmed the lights and sang 'Happy Birthday' to Poppy who blew out her candles in one breath and got to make a wish.   Party poppers popped and more tea was supped.

We learned a little more about Chinese traditions and tea parties.  It was another lovely evening, although I fear we made Poppy work very hard as we all drank endless cups of delicious tea.

Unfortunately, the guest of honour didn't put in an appearance.  No sign of the moon, but that is England for you.

Thank you, Poppy.   

We are so glad you are part of our family.

Thursday 15 September 2016

Good Fences

Whenever I visit Lincoln Cathedral this small bit of old metal fencing always gets my attention - well that and the beautiful mellow stonework.    Small and beautiful.

I'm linking in today with Teresa at the  Run A Round Ranch for  Good Fences.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

A Giant

' I saw old Autumn in the misty morn...'
Thomas Hood

The last few mornings have been misty and cool.    The beginning of Autumn, probably my favourite time of year.    

The mornings may be misty but the hedgerows glow with hawthorn berries, rosehips and sloes.    It is the time of year when I feel impelled to make pickles and preserves, fruity liqueurs and spicy chutney.   The pantry shelves now contain enough jars and bottles to satisfy my inner squirrel.

It is also the time of year when mushrooms begin to sprout up all over the place.

Like this one.

I tried to get Dobson to pose next to it but he was less than impressed, this was the best I could do.

It is pretty large
and when I tap my fingers against it
the sound it makes is similar to that of a ripe watermelon.

It is so big that it is visible to the naked eye from our garden...

...and that's a long way off.   

It is a big white ball which can be seen from all the windows in the back of the house.   It really is much more easily visible to the naked eye (and my eyesight is not that great these days)  than on these photographs.

I won't be picking this giant puffball mushroom, though.   I've tried it before, they are safe to eat but taste of nothing much at all.   

Much more fun to watch  and see how big it grows.