Saturday, 12 December 2015

RIP Archie, the cat

Well, here’s the blog post that I hadn’t anticipated having to write for several years. Archie our beloved cat has died.
He wasn’t at home when I got up this morning and didn’t come in when I called him. Three hours after I had got up and made breakfast, there was still no sign of him and so Mr J and I went out to look for him. There is always the risk when you move home that the cat decides to wander, but Archie seemed to have settled into his new surroundings so well that I felt it unlikely that he had wandered.

Our next door neighbour come out to greet us this morning (it’s the first time that we have met him) and told us that sadly he had found ‘a very large tabby cat’ that had died in the lane and had bundled him up rather than leaving him in the open with the rain pouring and wind blowing.
We introduced ourselves to the neighbour and thanked him for saving us from the shock of finding our much loved cat and we took Archie home to find a suitable tree under which to bury him. I can only guess that Archie wandered into the main road at the end of our lane and was hit by a car and had tried to come home but didn’t make it.

Archie came to live with us just under three years ago (shortly after Mr J and I starting living together), he belonged to a close friend’s son and wife who had recently had a baby and the combination just wasn’t working in their household. So Archie (known as Colin back then) came to live with us. He was a real character and very vocal, he liked to tell us about everything, he yowled when he wanted to go out or to come in or to have his cat biscuits topped up or because he was going upstairs, sitting down, about to go to sleep, you name it, Archie told us about it! The house seems very quiet without him.

He was also a highly skilled mouser (if you are squeamish skip to the next paragraph now), he would regularly catch three or four mouse-like creatures a night and loved to bring them in to show us what he had found. And he crunched them as noisily. Not long after he first arrived with us Mr J woke up one morning and asked me why I had been eating breadsticks in bed during the night (this is not something I do regularly, or in fact, ever) and I’d had to explain to him that it wasn’t me but was Archie eating a vole.

Archie loved to play, he would chase the little green light spot from a laser pen light up and down the stairs for ages before getting bored and in the summer would chase sticks thrown for him (he never learnt to bring them back though). He was affectionate and sought us out for a cuddle and fuss every day, rolling onto his back so that we could tickle his tummy, armpits and under his chin.

So we have locked the cat flap and picked up, washed and put away his bowls. They will all be needed again before too long, but for now we want a couple of weeks to get over the unpleasant surprise and remember him.

It really hasn’t been the best of days today and I will leave recording what else we have done for the last couple of days until tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

With loving memories

It’s been a funny old day, emotional, celebratory and thought-provoking.
It is three years since my mother passed away, my sister and I took a trip to my parents’ grave to put a Christmas wreath on it and to spend a little time in thoughtful memory of Mum. My sister and I regularly get the giggles when we are together and as so often happens, we ended up with tears of laughter running down our faces and remembered Mum’s reaction when this used to happen. She would roll her eyes skywards and with a slightly disapproving look say something like ‘honestly, you two just can’t behave when you are together’ and then as she’d turn away from us, we’d see her unable to suppress a little smile.
When I got home from the churchyard I made a gluten free lemon cake with lemon zest and Sicilian Limoncello extract (all the taste but no alcohol) topped with tangy lemon curd to offer to friends who were coming early afternoon for tea and natter. Our visitors were the previous owners of our lovely little home. It was they who did so much work to the house to transform it into the beautiful place that we now live in. It must have been strange for them to come back to the familiar building but with all our belongings in it. I was pleased that they liked the shrub border I am creating by the windbreak and I’m looking forward to visiting their new house once the hectic rush of late December is over.
Mid-afternoon we then headed back once more to our former home to collect some more of our belongings. Thankfully I can switch off and snooze in the car which gives me a chance to recharge my batteries a little. It feels like it is taking forever to clear the house, but the reality is that we can only do a little bit at a time as I get tired quickly and today had already been quite a busy one. We should finally have cleared and cleaned our former house by the end of the weekend and we can put all our efforts into this little smallholding.
So tonight, we are having a gentle evening, we both have our feet up, Mr J looks relaxed and happy and I’ve been in my element pouring over gardening books and magazines deciding if there are any urgent tasks that I need to do before it gets too late into the month.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A day in the garden

Archie, the cat, has now settled into his new surroundings very well, he seems relaxed and happy and has got back into his former routine of being out most of the night and sleeping most of the day. He was still out doing whatever it is he does at night when I got up.
After another woefully early start today, shortly after dawn I went out to the garden to start putting the windbreak netting up around the soon to be fruit and vegetable garden. It all happened rather more easily than I thought it would, which was delightful and by mid-morning, it was starting to look very pleasing. So I headed back indoors and made some mince pie tarts to go with a cup of tea.
A friend, Lucie, called round for a cuppa, mince pie and catch up and to have a look at our new home. She understood our excitement and shared our joy in finding such a fabulous home. For the remainder of the afternoon, I finished putting in place the first section of windbreak and planted a couple more shrubs in the border in the shelter of the windbreak.
As the light started to fade, I realised just how tired I had become and headed indoors to make supper and prepare for an early night. There’s another busy day planned for tomorrow and I imagine that I won’t get much time out in the garden so I am pleased at how much I have achieved today.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Shrubbery and joy

 Today I feel very fortunate. As I sit down to write this blog, I am looking out over our front garden while the wind cuts across it and I can hear the sound of it swirling around the yard. I have a fire glowing in the wood burner and a hot cup of tea on the table. This really isn’t a bad way to spend an hour, in comfort, warmth and with time to be reflective.
This morning, between the rain showers, I started to create what may become the only non-productive border we will have. I’ve decided that an area outside the paddock (which will soon be the fruit and vegetable garden) would look nice with shrubs. It can be seen as we drive along the lane and through the gate and also from the kitchen windows, and over time as the plants get taller and wider, it will help as a wind break.

So I gathered some of the plants that I intend to go into the shrubbery and placed them on the grass to see what it might look like. This is where a good imagination comes into play. The half a dozen plants that I dotted around look small and insignificant at the moment, but in a few years’ time will have become large and floriferous, and hopefully it will be a cheerful border.
The border is backed by a post and rail fence that surrounds the paddock and tomorrow I will fix on some wind break netting (that got delivered today just as the sun started to go down, so too late to do it today). This should provide a little shelter for the shrubs as they establish and a little for us too I hope.

I was in two minds whether it is appropriate in what will be an organic garden, to use plastic style netting, given that it’s a petroleum based product but in the end I decided that this will be used and reused and until the small plants have established themselves, I really do need to offer them some shelter. I found some on eBay at a good price from GroundMaster with next day delivery.
The alternative would have been to use a hessian type sacking which I think I will source to use to around the vegetables when they need shelter. Our small holding is on a rather exposed site, with wind whooshing in from the estuary and across from the Atlantic, all this makes for some very dramatic skies which I’m really enjoying.
Anyway, having decided the positions for the shrubs, I prepared planting holes for them and popped them into their new allotted spaces, filling in around them carefully with peat-free compost and firming them in with my foot. The area that they are in is currently grassed over, but once all the shrubs are in place, I will mulch the whole area with a couple of layers of thick cardboard covered in bark chippings to cover the grass and deter weeds growing.
As with everything nowadays, a task that should have taken about an hour has taken me most of the day. I have come to accept that I am slower in my movements than I would like to be and that I get tired very quickly and need to stop and rest regularly. However, I am determined that this will not stop me from doing the things that need doing or the things that I want to do, it will just take me longer to get them done.
What has actually happened as I have slowed down is that I have also learnt to enjoy things more and take more pleasure in the things that I do achieve and also in my family, friends and in my surroundings. This, surely, is a better way to be than to be racing from one thing to the next without noticing all the good things in my life. Whilst I could do without many of the effects of being unwell, this has been an unexpected gift.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Family Matters

What a fabulous day Sunday was! Not the weather, that continued to be autumnal with blustery winds and some showers, but with a visit from my daughter, her partner and my two grandsons. It’s the first time that they have seen the house, apart from the vast numbers of photographs that I have sent to my daughter of course, and I was very keen to show them around.

Number one grandson very sensibly arrived with spare welly boots and coat to leave at Grandma’s farm, so after a welcome cup of tea and a quick look around the inside of the house, I took them for a wander around the garden. Luckily my grandson approved of my plans for the chicken condo and I can look forward to them arriving in the next week or so.
Lunch with a fidgety four year old and under-the-weather 3 week old baby was never going to be a smooth affair, but it was sociable and fun and number one grandson showed me that he can now count to 100. I was impressed, as any grandparent would be.

Shortly after lunch Mr J headed off to go to a book sale in aid of the charity Kidney Wales Foundation and returned late afternoon with a great little book about organic farming. After my daughter and her family had headed back to their home about 40 minutes away, I spent the afternoon pottering around in the house, putting more things away.
Today I was delighted to see that the rain had stopped, the skies were getting clearer and it was nice enough to tackle a gentle task outdoors. So I started to put the glass into the greenhouse. Now this looked really easy in the videos that I’ve watched on YouTube and it would be really easy if I had done it dozens of times before, but I haven’t and it was more fiddly than I had anticipated.
But worse than fiddly little W shaped metal clips pinging off the metal frame and onto the gravel was the loud crunching noise of metal on glass that went with each clip being put in place. Like nails on a blackboard, my teeth went dry with every single one. I was slightly relieved when Mr J suggested that it would be a good time to head back to our previous rented house and collect another car load of belongings!