Tuesday 31 December 2019

The End of the Old Year

Weather lore:
"If on New Year's Eve the wind blows south
It betokens warmth and growth
If west, much milk and fish in the sea
If North, much cold and storms will be
If East the trees will bear much fruit
If North-East flee (from) it man and brute"

No wind today in Owl Wood, so we can't tell what is to come.

"Dry January, plenty of wine
A wet January, a wet Spring"

Apparently this one dates from medieval times, when there were many more vineyards in England.

"A warm January, a cold May"

We shall see.

1 January - Weather Lore

"Morning red, foul weather and great need"

"The first three days of January rule the coming three months"

Time will tell.

I can't deny that I will be happy to wave farewell to this year.       I don't want to begin a pity party, the saga is not mine to share, so I won't go into details; it is enough to say that it has not been a good year. 

I don't stay up to celebrate, I did plenty of that when I was young, these days it is just another night - early to bed, early to rise.   The animals make sure of the early to rise bit.

If you do stay up then I hope you have a great time as you see the old year out and usher the new one in and I hope that the New Year is a good one for you, and those you hold dear. 

Thank you for taking the time to read, for all your comments, the blog friendships.   All truly appreciated!

Wishing you all "Health, Wealth, and Happiness throughout the New Year".

For anyone who plans to party hard:   "Hang a piece of ivy over the bed tonight, so that the first thing you see upon waking, is green.   Green ivy is symbolic of everlasting life and will guard against drunkeness."  

Good luck!

Monday 30 December 2019

Gasping and Terrified

I caught sight of an orange blur streaking up the side of our property, at first I thought it was Millie the cat, then I realised that it was rather larger, and that it had a truly magnificent bushy tail. 

A beautiful fox, gasping, panting, terrified.

It paused at the corner, gasping for breath, s/he looked straight into my eyes.   Five to six seconds later the poor creature took off again, taking a diagonal line across the field, heading for the old school playing fields, and safety, I hope.

Foxy was not just out for a jog, he had been chased, hard.     I could hear dogs in the distance, but I didn't see the hunt at all, thank goodness.      They are not supposed to kill foxes these days, but of course they do.

The last time I saw the hunt around our village was quite a number of years ago.  A spectacular sight, but my sympathies are always with the foxes.

This post isn't about the rights and wrongs of hunting, it is about that incredible moment when you lock eyes with a wild creature and there is that breathtaking moment of connection.

Have you enjoyed such a moment?

Saturday 28 December 2019

Love in the China Cupboard

An old photograph of the kitchen table

I suppose I should have written this post before Christmas, still, better late than never. 

The two 1970's dressers which are in the photograph hold lots of china, so does the pantry which is through the door between them.      I often think that I should send the lot to charity, enjoy the empty space, the uncluttered shelves.

However, Christmas is the time of year when I am glad that I haven't given into that particular temptation.    Cooking a celebratory meal for the family is enjoyable-ish, but dressing the table is enormous fun, especially when I start looking in those china cupboards, for they are filled with lovely  memories of people I loved, meals we shared, the celebrations and gatherings.

I always dress the table with a vast piece of sumptuous dark red and old gold curtain fabric - a bargain find in 'Boyes',  many years ago.     I've tried a plain white cloth, but that looks too starchy and formal for my hotchpotch collection of china and bits and pieces...pieces which link my life as a child with my life as a mother and grandma, along with everything between.

Throw on some brass candlesticks, a few pieces of silver, my late mother's dark red and gold china - bought by her, sixty years ago, when we lived in Hong Kong), plus quirky, individual pieces which make me smile, special glassware, whip up a dollop of magic, then serve the delicious (naturally!!) food to the fabulous family and away we go!

How about you - do you go for immaculate presentation, everything perfectly aligned and matched, or are you a messy and sentimental person?   As ever, no right, no wrong. 

Oh, no photograph of the finished table, because I was far too busy to even think about using a camera, instead there is this photo - fairy lights right around the perimeter of the kitchen and homemade 'snowflakes' hung from the kitchen beam, there are fresh holly sprigs on many of the paintings and lots of holly and greenery on the mantelpiece at the other end of the room.   No tree, with a very waggily-tailed Toby, plus two cats who like to shimmy up trees...

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope your Christmas Day has been a good one.

Mine started early, as usual.  The two cats and Toby are used to an early start and if I sleep in beyond 5.15am they seem to think I need a morning call...thanks guys.

By 8am two of our grandchildren had come across the garden, full of tales of what Father Christmas had brought for them, and checking around to see whether he had managed to squeeze down our chimney, too.     We had a wonderful, crazy, hour or so with them.

Most unusually, the morning service was being held in the small church of the neighbouring village.  My daughter, grandson and I decided to walk through the fields to church.   As we cut through the farm and along the track to the church, the bells started to ring, so we picked up our pace and arrived with a few minutes to spare. 

The sun had been shining, the ground was squelchy, but not as muddy as it has been.   It almost felt as though there was some sort of slippage of time and we could have been villagers from hundreds of years ago, following the track and scurrying to the sound of the bells...apart from the fact that we had high tech Wellington Boots on, of course!

The vicar has a very young son of his own, so he kept the service short and sweet.   Plenty of carols, lustily sung, lots of greetings were exchanged with friends and strangers, mince pies and cups of coffee handed round.   The church was bedecked with freshly cut holly and lots of candles, there was a beautiful and very old wooden crib set on one windowsill.   The whole church felt warm and welcoming, despite the fact that we all had dragons breath coming out of our mouths, due to the cold!

Son No 2 and MingMing arrived shortly after we got home.   The grandchildren and their parents went back to their house - we always leave the rest of the day clear for them to spend time with their other grandparents, it seems only fair as we are lucky enough to see them every day.

Then I got stuck into some serious cooking.    I may not eat meat, but I make a supreme effort for Christmas, an enormous turkey and a giant ham, that should keep them all quiet for a while!   The animals were quite chuffed, too.

Crackers, silly jokes, enough to eat and drink without being silly.   We listened to the Queen's Speech, natch, then we settled down to play "Double Nines" Dominoes, which is the same as regular dominoes, except that you have more tiles of course.   It makes it a bit more challenging.   What began as one gentle game ended up becoming highly competitive.    I shall say no more.   Good game.

So that was our day. 

I hope your day has been a good one, however you spent it.

Belated Christmas Greetings to one and all!

ps No time to proof read this, so here it is, warts and all. 

Sunday 22 December 2019

Habit, Confusion & Old Books

On a couple of occasions just recently I have found myself going to search a document for a particular word or phrase by using Ctrl+f, only to realise that I am not on the computer but reading through an old book...   

About an hour and a half ago the power went off, we were plunged into darkness, apart from a small string of battery operated fairly lights and the log burner.     I discovered that my habit of walking through the house in the darkness of the night stood me in good stead, I was able to make my way through to the Boot Room and the pantry to gather up the battery lamp, candles, etc.   

A quick scout around outside showed me that the rest of the village was also without electricity.    The power company assured me that they were aware of the power cut and engineers were on the way.   So we settled down to watch the flames flickering, listened to some old 50's/60's music and enjoyed the experience.   

The longest night made extra dark, for a while.   It makes you realise how much we depend upon electricity, how much of a habit it has become for the hand to reach for a light switch, or to flick the kettle on.

Baking day tomorrow so I hope we don't have any more outages.   

Friday 20 December 2019

A Few Days before Christmas

...and the rain is still falling. 

Christmas preparations are slowly progressing.   Slowly because there is no rush and I am enjoying myself.    No rush, no pressure. 

The simple pleasures of the kitchen and home, an escape from the wider world.

These illustrations were done by a Lincolnshire artist, Colin Carr.   They all appeared in 50/60 year old copies of Lincolnshire Life.     They may be too sentimental, nostalgic, or sugary sweet for your taste, but his work has brought much pleasure to people for many decades and still sell well as Christmas cards.

I have continued my experiments with frumenty, fermenty, furmitty, etc.   There are no photographs though because no matter how the recipes and ingredients may vary, the finished dishes all pretty much end up looking the same.    However, the experiment has been a success.   Healthy and nutritious food which has slotted so easily into the way I like to eat and, as a side benefit, I am happy to say that I have lost 3lbs in weight.

The basic dish can be enriched in many ways, and even made to resemble the flavour of Christmas Pudding, not surprising as that is where the traditional pudding is thought to have evolved from.  Of course Cromwell and his Puritans would most certainly not have approved of such decadence, especially over Christmas.   They believed that this period should be spent in fasting and prayer and if any house was suspected of having any such delicacies hidden about the place, they were searched.

This led to rebellion, plum pudding riots, year after year.    Woe betide the man who gets between and Englishman and his plum pudding.

I digress.   I have made:
Poorman's Frumetty - a very simple dish of creed wheat, milk and honey.   It was delicious.

Creamy Frumetty - all of the above, but with the addition of sultanas, nutmeg and brandy. I had to omit the brandy, for fear of migraines, but it was still very good.

Plum Pudding - pearl barley, raisins, currants, nutmeg, sugar, butter/suet.    This one filled the kitchen with the aroma of Christmas Pudding.  Deliciously decadent and very moreish.

Barley Pudding - pearl barley milk, sugar or honey, butter.  Simple, but excellent.

Groat Pudding - traditionally eaten by the poor as a Christmas pudding up to the late 1800's.  Groats/pin head oats, sugar, raisins, milk, water.   Another really delicious dish.

There are dozens of recipes still to try, mere tweaks on the basic dish, but I shall give them a go.  The richest of the dishes is one I have decided to leave until Christmas Eve - for I know how to have a good time.   It is noted as being the equal of any modern day Christmas pudding:

Rich Frumetty - wheat, mixed dried fruit, brown sugar or honey, 1 egg, milk and butter, with a glug of brandy to your taste.   

Ooops!  I hit publish, when I meant to 'save'.  Oh well, I haven't got time to write more, so this must do for today.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Call My Bluff

On Thursday we had some torrential rainfall, but I hadn't realised quite how heavy, until yesterday morning, when I walked past the old watermill.   Duck Island has disappeared and the stream has swollen to become a river, the water trying to squeeze under the bridge where I took the photograph from.

It didn't prevent me from walking Toby.  We managed to fit in our usual walk of a little over three miles, although it was heavy going in some parts, but that was balanced by the joy of walking along riverbanks and through open farmland. 

I wouldn't swap any of it for pavement walks, that is for sure.

Because we live just across the garden from two of our grandchildren, our home is something of a sanctuary to them, it also works as a place for their mother to let off steam - as she did this morning.

Storm in a teacup, of course.   I think most parents have been there - the house was a tip, children's toys all over the place, husband's sports gear just dumped in the kitchen, school books scattered around (he is a teacher, too), etc.       One grandchild wailing because she doesn't like mummy any more, grandson muttering under his breath as he half-heartedly sorted his things, husband looking thunderous because he wanted to be outdoors.

I couldn't resist, I went over and did my best Mary Poppins impression.   We looked for the fun and the job was soon done.   

Easy for me, but how it brought back the memories of when I was a working mother with three children, husband working away, and everything fell on to my shoulders.   Molehills became mountains and I often felt as though I was trying to swim through treacle.

When I returned home I decided to do a little cupboard sorting - talk about easily influenced.

I came across a huge brown envelope.

It was filled with pieces of card which had been cut from cereal/tissue boxes.    I recognised the handwriting immediately.    The cogs went round and I was whizzed back over thirty years.

Remember Call My Bluff?  The panel game, where contestants are split into teams and have to decide which definition of an obscure word is correct?     My father used to love that game.    Back then we used to have big family gatherings over Christmas and he must have spent days, if not weeks, making this for us all to play.

Can you imagine anyone these days spending so much time on a thing?   Much more likely to check out Amazon.      I love that this bundle of card is so imbued with his energy and hard work - he died almost twenty years ago, but this made him feel very near.

Well that's our Christmas entertainment sorted out then. 

Monday 9 December 2019

What's On in the Village Hall Today

We had a little carol singing party in the village hall today.    It was not well supported; just the usual tiny group of strangers who have become friends over the last few years.   

We had the lovely Carol on the keyboard, belting out tunes in a very high key, and at double speed while the rest of us tried to sing along. 

We were even worse than last year, and that was embarrassingly bad.

There were mince pies, festive bakes, chocolates, crisps and lots of naughty treats, along with tea and coffee.    We sang, very badly, played games, chatted, laughed, had fun.

The singing was terrible.   Really and truly.   It was worse than bad.    I recorded the group singing a couple of songs (discreetly) on my phone.   I had intended to post a clip on here.

It is so dreadful that I know it would go viral.

Still, it was a fun little gathering and it was nice to see the village hall being used.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Frumetty, Frummenty, Frumettie, Firmetty & Furmenty

Every year I try to eat slightly more frugally throughout the first few weeks of December, and by that I mean consume slightly less food than normal.     It works for me, although I do know that other people think "what the heck..." and decide to eat what like through December and make January the time for a fresh start, and that works, too.   

I prefer to regard the Christmas feasting, as a reward for being 'good'(ish!).

Why am I telling you this?   To set my food experiment into context.    I knew that I wanted to try cooking some of the many variations on Lincolnshire foods - and goodness knows that there are lots to choose from:

Lincolnshire Cheeses  (Stamford and Gainsborough used to hold Cheese Fairs)
Lincolnshire Plum Bread - Yeasted and Non-Yeasted
Lincolnshire Rich Plum Bread & also Plum Puddings
Lincolnshire Ginger Bread
Lincolnshire Curd Cheese Cakes and Cream Cheese
Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine
Lincolnshire Sausages
Lincolnshire Hazelets/Haslets/Haselets
Lincoln Monkey
and let us not forget the mighty
Lincolnshire Pork Pie.

Henry VIII may have had a low regard for Lincolnshire, which I believe he once described as 'the most brute and beastly of the whole realm', or words to that effect.   But what did he know of this glorious county and our local dishes.

Of course I wanted something to fit in with my sensible eating, but also something I could have a bit of fun with.    Plum bread, Gingerbread and Lincoln monkey would have been fun, but very calorific.   I settled on Frumetty, Frumenty, Frumettie, Firmetty, Fermety, Furmenty, Furmety - or however you wish to spell it, I have come across all of these, and more.

The basic dish remains the same though.   It has been eaten since man cultivated grains.   Some make it with wheat, others with barley, while some recipes call for groats or pin head oats.    There are poorman's versions, rich ones, creamy ones and special festive recipes (which I will make nearer to Christmas). 

It was once sold by stall holders at country fairs and the basic recipe remains very much like the pottage which the Roman soldiers made over their camp fires.   In the Lincolnshire Wolds it was traditionally eaten at sheepshearing time, at harvest time, and was also a traditional Christmas Eve dish.

It is, in essence, a kind of porridge.   Now porridge is something which I do eat almost every day.   So with a little bit of planning I can try out the many variations on a theme which my old recipes books have to offer - and I can eat them without any sense that I am over indulging before the official feasting begins.


The first problem I hit was that I didn't have any whole wheat grains in the pantry.   Never mind, I did have barley, so I made Barley Pudding instead.    It was so delicious that my husband pinched most of it, and he had been pretty scathing about my experiment to begin with!

Barley Pudding

2 tbsp pearl barley plus water to cree*
1 pint milk
Honey or Sugar if you want sweetness
A knob of butter if you want to make it slightly richer (I didn't)

Cree the barley in water until soft - approx 2 hours - you can drain off any surplus water to make barley water, if liked.    Put the barley into a saucepan, or your slow-cooker, with sugar, butter, milk and cook very gently for about an hour.   

To *Cree:  Cook the wheat/barley in water in a slow oven for several hours or overnight - I used my slow cooker on a low setting - until it more or less forms a jelly.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Winter Reading...

The weather has been cold, crisp, frosty and very beautiful.   A nice change from never-ending rain and flooded fields.

I should have taken advantage of the fine weather to get outside and rake the leaves from the lawns, or to continue cutting back some of the shrubbery.    Instead I have taken extra-long walks with Toby, visiting some of the places which were inaccessible due to the poor drainage of the clay soil around here.

We have walked miles through the fields, skirted ancient woodland, and I have pondered about the countless feet which have walked these pathways since the days of yore - the people, their daily lives, clothing, footwear. 

I get lost in my thoughts but, luckily, one part of my brain keeps a look out for wildlife and things of interest.

On one occasion I saw an enormous flights of geese making their raucous way to somewhere else, a common enough sight around here, but what made this particular group special was that they had a flock of much smaller birds flying with them, inside the 'V' formation.  A sight I have never seen before.  They looked sparrow-sized, but could have been a little larger.   I wondered whether they were 'hitching a lift' taking advantage of the aerodynamics provided by the motion of the much bigger birds.

Home again, home again.  Rub-a-dub-dub-dub/paddy-paws/paddy paws.    Good boy Toby.  Sit!  Have a biscuit...
Good boy.
All gone.
Off you go!

Time for a cup of tea and a quick read.

None of that Marie Kwondo (or whatever she calls herself)  nonsense around here. 

The old piano stool makes a handy table/repository for my current books/research material.    I should work at my desk, down the other end of the house, but Toby and the cats are not allowed down there and they hate being left alone when I am in the house.

Duty calls, I need to get on with housework and also with writing a few more Christmas cards, but all that can wait for half an hour.

Old recipe books and books about the history of food await.

In many ways I would rather dig and delve into the books than cook.   However, I cannot deny that I like trying out new (to me) recipes from these old volumes.       At the moment I am particularly interested in old Lincolnshire food, though one would really need to be a meat-eater to do full justice to all the local dishes, many of them require pork, for country folk depended on the pig to keep them fed. 

Luckily I have found a very traditional dish which has so many variations and traditions associated with it that it will keep me happily occupied until Christmas.   No meat required.   Thank goodness.

More in a day or two.

Feel free to ignore my ramblings, I know it won't be of interest to many, but the blog will help me to keep a note of my various attempts.

Enjoy the week. 
Keep warm, be safe, be happy.


Friday 22 November 2019

Secrets and Perception

Big Bear and his chums - nothing to do with this post, but I had forgotten this photograph was on my telephone and it is just so cute, I decided to use it.

This book arrived in the post this morning, along with a note from the bookseller, describing it as 'A rather sad specimen...'

I am thrilled with the book and delighted with the condition.   It dates from 1934 and, like all the very best recipe books, it has been used!  Surely that is the whole point of a book of recipes?    The chutney pages have splashes and marks on them, some recipes are marked with very large stars, or ticks, especially any which mention marrow. 

I assume that the woman who owned it must have had quite a few air-ship-sized ones to deal with each year - as do I, the difference being that mine are usually overlooked courgettes.

There are recipes for cures, tonics, ointments, liniments and embrocations.  Hints and tips, plus a recipe for shoemaker's paste.       '...should your fruit trees be troubled by American Blight you can sow common nasturtiums under the trees and let them climb all about them.  In 2 years time there will not be a trace of blight left'. 

Suffering from jaundice?  Remember that a handful of earth worms are fatal to it (and possibly also to the patient).    Nine young swallows alive can be compounded into an excellent ointment...doesn't say what it will cure.

It is an excellent book, thank goodness that it didn't get thrown away or burnt, as so many of these books must have done.    The condition is perfect, for my purposes.    Long may book sellers think otherwise - it means that I got my hands on this little treasure for just a few pounds.

The foreword was written by Edith Olivier, author, who was related to Laurence Olivier through her paternal grandfather, I believe.

Her style of writing is very enjoyable and I will certainly be looking out for some of the books she wrote - as long as I can find them at bargain prices, of course.

The log burner is blazing away, just as it was the other evening when I took this snap.   The cats and my granddaughter were all basking in the heat, Toby was around the far side, on the kitchen rug in front of the stove.    Double-sided stove, double the pleasure. 

No prizes for guessing what I will be doing this evening.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Books & the Countryside

Even on a cold dank and dismal November day I still enjoy my morning walks with my dog, Toby.  Almost every morning, whether there be rain or sunshine, sees us walking through the farmland which surrounds Parsonage Cottage and the surrounding three villages.    It is a special time and certainly outranks even that first cup of coffee of the day - and I really do enjoy my coffee!

We rarely see a soul, and that is good.

Down the lane, then either under or over the disused railway line, according to how much rain has fallen(!) past the beautiful old watermill - if the lane is not under a foot of water - then up the hill and past the old manor house and into the fields.

I enjoy the sense of history, the glimpses of the past, which it is easy to sense along the way.  The walk through the fields is the most exhilarating part.   Big open fields with tiny cottages and barns dotted around in the far distance.    Space to breathe, time to think.   To let my thoughts roam and ramble.

Fresh clean air, sunshine if we are lucky.   It makes my heart sing with pleasure.   Sounds silly, but it is true.    We often catch sight of hare, deer, occasionally a fox, sometimes an owl out for a last snack before bedtime.     I have walked these fields for almost a decade and a half so I know them pretty well, I have discovered those places where the sweet violets hide, the little patch of wild strawberries, and where you are always sure to find some giant puffballs.   I have learnt which fields always flood after heavy rain, followed the ancient footpaths through fields and tried to imagine all the people who walked along them through the centuries.

The small local church perched up on a hill, where the bank next to the little lane is eroding because rabbits have dug around in it for so many centuries.   Sometimes I find chunks of very old bone sliding down towards the road.    I gather them up, go back into the old churchyard and then drop them down an old rabbit hole - away from the bank, but in roughly the same area - saying a prayer for whoever they belonged to as I do so.    I have sent a message to the new young vicar to see whether he would prefer to do the biz himself.

We cut through farmyards and past an old gatehouse follow the track along by the medieval barn, then walk along one side or another of the river, unless the ground is really saturated, in which case we take the farm track because that way isn't quite so squelchy.

Every walk has something magical and beautiful about it, even on the wet days.

But, hey, enough about the walks.   What about the books?

I love books, you all know that by now.

I normally have three or four books on the go at the same time.    Parsonage Cottage is a long, single storied house, so I have a book for snatched moments when I have time to read, in the conservatory, and another one down at the very far end of the house, in the bedroom.   There is always a paperback book left next to the bathtub, because I do prefer a bath to the shower - can't read in the shower!!  Then my craft room normally has a stack of books left on the desk, according to whatever I am researching at the time - could be old recipes, local history, country churches, etc.   Books, glorious books.

Sue, over on My Quiet Life in Suffolk has been conducting an experiment in local food, trying to eat as locally, and with as few air miles, as possible.

This got me thinking about all the local food producers around here - and there are lots - which then led me to thinking about my Lincolnshire recipe book collection.    So of course I had to pull them off the shelves to have a browse. 

Ten or fifteen years ago I would have laughed at the very idea of collecting old cookery books, then I picked up my first old handwritten one, at a country auction.    That was the catalyst that set me off - first of all looking out for other handwritten ones, then when they became far too expensive for me to justify, I began watching for Lincolnshire recipe books.   The old and well used ones are the best, especially if they have notes and indicators of whether or not a recipe was enjoyed.

Right, that is me all talked out. 

I need to go and read a book.

I hope your weekend has been a good one, and that the coming week is everything you could wish for.

ps  These are some of the things which the grandchildren and I made for the craft fair - fire lighters, bird feeders, twiggy stars, hyacinth bulbs, beeswax candles, etc.   There were very few things left at the end, so I think they should be chuffed with themselves.     

Monday 11 November 2019


This end of the year always seem to fly by at twice the normal speed.    Admittedly I have put in quite a lot of time in making chutneyand so on as I try to deal with the glut of green tomatoes(!), making some bottles of Christmas Pudding Vodka, Bramble Gin, mincemeat and assorted tasty treats.     The pantry shelves are groaning with delights, most of which will be making their way to the church sale this weekend.

I have also helped and encouraged the grandchildren to put some time and effort into making pine cone bird feeders, twiggy stars, natural fire lighters, and so on.   I have just about run out of steam now and that mad and seasonal need to craft and create has almost ended!   I inflict this madness on myself each year, I both love it and hate it.

This afternoon I attended the monthly meeting at the village hall.     Our wonderful local historian brought this marvellous photograph in to show us.    Our tiny village hall, way back in 1915, when the ladies were gathered to sew and make things for the men who were away fighting in the First World War.

There we were in our denims, sweatshirts and boots, all so casually dressed for warmth and practicality - no doubt the women in the photograph would have been shocked.       They all look so smart in their hats and beautiful white blouses.   

The hall looks nothing like the photograph now.   The oil lamps have gone, the panelling, balcony, coat rack and staircase have all been removed and what was a very characterful hall was remodelled and updated thirty or forty years ago and has become a small, bland and anonymous building.

We chatted about some local history and then Miss Read handed out some worksheets which I had typed up for her.     Once a teacher, always a teacher.   She had written a short story, which was really a bit of a quiz, with about two dozen town and city names/part names hidden among the story.  It sometimes took quite a bit of lateral thinking, but it was great fun.

Then we played dominoes which was much more fun than it sounds.    After we had locked the hall, I went out with a friend to deliver the parish magazines around the three local villages/hamlets.   Then had to race home to cook tea for the grandchildren; thank goodness for beans on toast.

Yesterday we decided not to attend the usual Remembrance Parade in one of the local towns.  We had decided to visit a tiny church which is no longer used as a church but has been sold on.

This was why we made the trek.   It is the only Commonwealth War Grave in the old churchyard and it marks the grave of an unknown sailor who was washed ashore and buried here during the war.  Eventually they established his identity - the uncle of a Scottish friend of ours.   Our friend has never been able to make a visit to his uncle's grave.

It was nice to see that someone else had visited.    Possibly a representative of the Merchant Navy Association, given the markings on the wooden cross they had left.     As I stood up and looked out across the fields I could see another of my favourite redundant churches.   Three of his shipmates were buried in that churchyard, so he has company not too far away.

I suppose that now I have all the craft work and preserving out of the way I will just have to knuckle down and do some housework. 

Noooo-o, so boring!

Wishing you all a happy week.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Autumn at Parsonage Cottage

Autumn is my favourite season, especially when the weather is fine and dry, which it hasn't been this year, but never mind.   I can always find plenty of things to forage and collect while I am out on my walks.      Pine cones, alder cones, beech nut cases, to name but a few.

I have collected oodles of them, to make winter wreaths.     

Several hours were spent wielding the pruning shears, trimming pine cones, painting some, bleaching others, snipping and wiring to a wreath made from some honeysuckle vines which I pruned a couple of weeks ago, then formed into a wreath shape.

I need to add a loop of wire to the back, for hanging, but then it is finished. 

I also made this one, much less work, and I like the simplicity.

I have been fairly busy in the kitchen. 

Apricots in Brandy, Prunes in Port,  Ginger in heavy syrup, and  Ginger in Brandy Syrup plus a couple of containers of Quince paste.

They will all be going into Christmas hampers.

I managed to fit in lots of long dog walks, despite the wet and muddy fields.    Toby still hates getting wet, but he is much more resigned to having to wade through deep puddles, especially when the alternative is to be left behind - of course I wouldn't leave him behind, but because I just walk on at the same brisk pace as normal, he thinks that is going to happen, so he delicately (for a chunky Labrador Cross) picks his way through, skipping with joy when we reach dry land.

This morning's walk was much drier though.   We went out along a bridle way which I haven't walked since the Spring.     I am so glad that I did. 

I had forgotten to take my camera or glasses, but when I spotted some pink flowers in the ancient hedgerow, I was intrigued enough to snaffle a couple of leaves and the accompanying flowers so that I could attempt to find out what it was.

Spindle!     Tiny, brilliant pink flowers with bright orange berries.  According to the Woodland Trust it is an indicator of ancient woodland - and just one field away there is indeed a patch of ancient woodland - the woodland which covered the area after the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, a rare and special habitat.

The wood of the Spindle tree has been used to make spindles, toothpicks, skewers, viola bows,  knitting needles, pegs, and bird cages, according to Richard Mabey in his book 'Plants with a Purpose'.

The berries are 'fiercely purgative', poisonous, some say, but they were dried, powdered, and then rubbed into the hair of boys to rid them of lice, he doesn't say why it was only used on boys.

November tomorrow!

Wednesday 23 October 2019

A Stolen Sheep and the Village Hall

Sunday afternoon was one of those rare occasions when there was an 'event' in our tiny village hall.

Mr Digby had very kindly set up the hall with displays of some of the history of the village and surrounding area.      Over the last decade or so he has gathered together old photographs, maps, newspaper cuttings, oral history, documents and books and snippets of fascinating facts.

I persuaded my husband, daughter, and granddaughter  to attend, too.   They soon melted away, but I spent an hour there and during that time there were about twenty-five visitors, including several born and bred villagers, who found that there was plenty to bring back memories, along with fascinating stories and facts which they hadn't known about.   

A farming friend was thrilled to find that the old blacksmith's ledgers contained notes about work which had been done for her father, back in the late 1940's.    When the blacksmith died, a couple of years ago, papers and ledgers were dumped in a skip.   Luckily, Mr Digby was able to get permission to rescue some of them!

One story which I thought I would share with you is the tale of a 25 year old man who lived in the village in the 1840's.    He was arrested, tried and convicted of killing a sheep and stealing 3lbs of wool from the carcass.  His previous convictions included the theft of a smock and a hat worth 1 shilling, for which he received 3 months imprisonment with hard labour.    The sentence for killing the sheep was transportation to Tasmania, for 15 years.
He was transported in 1841.
There were no notes about whether he ever returned.

Difficult to pick out just a few stories, there were so many - including the tale of a house which was being renovated, but simply collapsed when the roof was taken off, which must have been a bit of a shock for the couple who owned the place.    Luckily, they were granted permission to rebuild, providing they stayed within the original footprint of the house!

The tales of the Naughty Nuns, I will leave for another time.

One story which wasn't covered, was that of a local landowner/farmer who was so convinced that his horse was going to win a race, that he used his farm as the stake... the horse lost the race, and he lost his farm...his poor wife and family!

Sounds like a story from long ago, but in fact it happened around the 1950's.   
The family still live locally.

I have harvested my quinces - they are much larger this year and I am delighted to say that they smell heavenly. 

One has been added to an apple crumble - and it really added to the flavour.    One or two will be sliced and added to trays of roasted vegetables...then I move on to the much more exciting quince butter and membrillo.     I just need the free time to get cooking.

I have been working for an hour or so each day, cleaning out the ditches which surround Owl back is not happy.     Two more days should see the job completed.   Thank goodness.

Thursday 17 October 2019

A Morning with Miss Read

My intention was to begin a new blog, something entirely different from Tales from Parsonage Cottage.   I haven't so much failed, as simply not found enough time or energy to do the deed. 

I am back again, for a while.

This morning's dog walk was wonderful, despite the squelchy, sodden ground.  The air was cold, the sky a brilliant blue, the sun shone.     Hedgerows glowed with brilliant red rosehips and hawthorn berries.   

I had arranged to visit Miss Read, so I dropped Toby back home, then walked back through the village.   Normally I can walk through the village without seeing a soul, today was completly different; friends I hadn't seen for ages appeared around every corner - each one requiring a conversation and a catch-up.    It took half an hour to walk the usual five minute route to Miss Read's home.

'Miss Read' is almost 90 years old, a retired school mistress,  village stalwart and fount of local knowledge.

She was a little tired today, her emotions were not far from the surface.   I hope my visit, and the long chat we had over a pot of tea, helped to cheer her up. 

I came away with a bundle of papers, she has been writing some more of her memoirs, more fascinating tales which I am going to type up for her.

She had also written a story, a kind of quiz, ready for our next village hall meeting for anyone over the age of 55 years.    Yes, our monthly meetings are still taking place, we limp along from month to month.   September's meeting was brilliant, we had a retired archaeologist in to talk about the history of the villages around and about.   Fascinating stuff.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Time to Move On

I began this blog in July 2015 when I created a little imaginary village, gave myself and everyone, including all our animals, new names, mixed locations around and about, while still writing about life around here.

It has been fun sharing those 500 or so posts with you, making new friends, as well as getting back in touch with the bloggy friends I have known since the long ago days of Pear Tree Log.

The winds of change are blowing again and I feel the need to abandon this blog, reinvent myself and get going again, under a new name and probably in a new setting.

Until we meet again - very best  wishes and a huge thank you to everyone who has ever taken the time to read and/or comment.


Wednesday 7 August 2019

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Last night I was sound asleep, no doubt snoring like a piglet, when my dreamless sleep was rudely interrupted by a very loud and most peculiar sound.   I sat bolt upright, trying to make sense of what had woken me.   

The sound I had in my head was like that of a gigantic rain stick, or a thousand long thin aluminium sticks being dropped from a height, a fractured sound, yet it was altogether.  It was weird.    Husband slept on, oblivious.

I got up and checked on the animals,  they were all fine.   No security lights had come on, no alarms were ringing,  so it was unlikely to be intruders.   I decided that I must have imagined it, or had an auditory dream.

I went back to bed, still puzzled, but too sleepy to do anything more about it.

My daughter came round this morning - as you may recall, she lives just across the garden, in the old farmhouse, her first words were to ask whether I had heard anything in the night...

She and her husband had both been woken by a loud noise, they thought it sounded like a 'fizzing firework'!   They got up to investigate.

It turned out that an old oak tree, just a few yards along the lane, had collapsed.    Luckily it had fallen away from the lane, although a couple of large branches were across the road and had to be chainsawed before being dragged away.   I slept through all that!

This is not the tree which collapsed, but it is a truly ancient oak which can be found a couple of miles away.     It is recorded as being almost a thousand years old.    They say that oaks grow rapidly for the first 120 years, begin to produce acorns after about 40 years, continue to grow until they are about 300 years old, spend another 300 years maturing, then gently decay for their final 300 years, or thereabouts.

The tree which crashed down in the night was a mere youngster then, for I reckon it was no more than three or four hundred years old, but it had probably been choked to death by the ivy which had twisted and twirled up the trunk for almost as many years.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Come On Through..

...and I will share a few snippets about this summer at Parsonage Cottage.

It will be remembered as the 'Summer of Swallows', for the simple reason that a pair of swallows decided to build a nest, high up in the rafters of the new barn.     They were brilliant parents and have successfully raised and fully fledged five young.    The amount of 'air traffic' in and out of the place caught the attention of the cats, too high up for them to be able to cause any problems, luckily.

Instead, they have turned their attention to rats and, since the barley field was harvested, they have caught two and left them on the patio.   I say they, but I think it is semi-feral Sparky who has done the catching, Millie's (ginger cat)  preference being birds.

Family visits, family gatherings and celebrations, gardening, reading and lots of long walks with Toby pretty much account for the rest of my time.

Barbecues and lots of guests, long lazy evenings spent chatting and catching up with everyone.

The weather has been very British, often three seasons all in one day.    Changeable.

Some baking, of course.  

Time spent walking my little gang around Owl Wood.


My next job will be to start mowing the lawns, a few years ago I would mow them all in one day.   It takes me two days now - and that's not because we have expanded the garden, so it must mean that I have slowed down.    Ah, well.

My best wishes to you all, hope you are enjoying your summer.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Another Village Hall in Lincolnshire

It is so tempting to talk about the weather, the rain, the floods, the cold - but I won't.   

I took a drive to a different part of the county, yesterday.   

A surprise birthday tea had been organised, to celebrate a cousin's 80th birthday,  in Glentham village hall which is a bit further north and on the other side of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

The hall was pleasantly full, tables were set with starched white cloths, prettily patterned and mismatched china, vast platters of tiny sandwiches, dainty scones, savouries, and lots of homemade cakes.   

When the guest of honour arrived she was genuinely surprised to find a large number of her family and friends, plus her art class and writing group waiting for her.      Somehow the sixty/seventy people had managed to keep the secret.    Even this little chap hadn't blabbed a word of it to his great granny.

He was so proud of his face paint that I had to take a photograph.     

It was great fun catching up with everyone.      The family line is very complicated so I have given up trying to work out exactly what kind of cousins, etc they all are.    Let's just say that for a young woman born in the Victorian era my grandmother must have had quite a strong and resilient character and, despite everything,  my grandfather's 'first' family all adored her. 

Unfortunately, I never met her, she died a few years before I was born. 

Yesterday I could hear the genuine affection in their voices when they spoke of her.     How I wish I knew the whole story, but the dots still don't quite meet.     

It must remain a mystery.

Poppies are out in full force.

Walks are breathtakingly beautiful, the world is washed and clean.

Everywhere looks as it did before, except for the mud.