Friday, 29 January 2010

Snow news is good news!

Oops, sorry.

The downside of the previous few weeks was obviously the treacherous conditions underfoot all but trapping me the wrong side of the doorstep and contributing unnecessarily to the lack of spare room in my walking trousers.

The upside was the birdlife. We fed them and they came. I was hoping for siskins but yellowhammers and a moorhen were a pleasant treat.

I knew that would come to an end, not just because of the thaw, but because this weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and however well fed they have been, they go on holiday this week every year so that I can only report two blackbirds and a robin. Very disappointing and unfair behaviour, I’ve always thought.

This year, we looked set for a repeat, but imagine my joy when I awoke this morning, peeked through the curtains (to judge what layers to apply) to see snow!

Ho, ho, ho, we have snow! So before I went for a brief trot over the marshes this morning, I plied the birds with premium seed. (It’s unusual stuff, there is a not unpleasant whiff of aniseed in the garage which appears to come from the premium birdseed. Lovely.) As I did the washing up on my return, there were loads of birds, mainly chaffinch and blackbirds admittedly, shovelling seed down their little feathery necks as fast as their beaks would let them. It’s got to snow till Sunday!

The downside of this snow is yet another cancelled girly walk, which is pants. There are already two snow and ice related injuries within the group, so it seems sensible if a little disappointing. It also means that, as I’ve been saving my mileage for the weekend (ahem) I’m not going to get beyond 11 miles this week, unless I force myself out for a coastal walk tomorrow. It’ll be a bit exposed and blustery, so we’ll see.

Today’s treat was catching a glimpse of a hare when I was on the marshes, purely by chance as I retraced my steps to identify some tracks I’d happened across. Fox I think, but I’ve had one of my blonde questions answered by this hare. I know that mountain hares are triggered by temperature to change to their winter fur, I wondered if lowland hares might revert to this behaviour if the weather was severe enough. I have seen a stoat in ermine on the marshes a few years ago, but it would appear the hares don’t don winter clothing. Interesting stuff.

Just to go back to the marmalade briefly, I baked a sticky date cake the other day that required ‘a heaped tablespoon of marmalade’. Made me chortle.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

What you don’t know about, doesn’t hurt you

There are those of you that will tell me that even knowing about it, it still won’t hurt me. I know this, but it doesn’t help. No, it really doesn’t.

It is all my own fault though. If I’d gone for the walk that I should have done, I wouldn’t know. I’d be blissfully ignorant. But it’s hard to motivate oneself to go for even a short walk on such a cold, blustery, damp day. Walking with friends would have been easier, because then you don’t notice the elements, you are safely cocooned by the camaraderie and gossip. So I opted to iron, hence, I’m blogging, ahem.

So no, I didn’t go and this is my punishment.

A spider.

Yes, that’s it. The cause of my angst, my distress, my upset.

A spider.

It appeared on the tiles behind the kitchen sink, disappeared, then reappeared behind the kettle. It then made it’s way between various objects, (it’s a working kitchen, use your imagination!) a rather round about route to the corner, hidden by jars and bottles containing dried pasta, pulses and cooking alcohol, (only to be consumed in desperation).

I’m sure David will tell me it’s not big, but I know otherwise.






I shall seek comfort in maps, planning a walk for Saturday with a friend, because ‘Hoppy’ can’t go and everyone else is banging out. Cowards! It’s looking like the Glenlivet Estate at the moment.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, today could be the start of my diet…

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Homemade marmalade, yum! Thanks Grandma, six jars, a small bowl and a terracotta pot later, the preserving pan is a resounding success.

Hmm. Not going to help much with the extra stone...

Hoping I’m half as clever as my grandma

I’ll try to get some walking into this by the end, but I’m going to start with my grandma.

My grandparents were wonderful and lived most of their lives, and mine, in Suffolk, although they ended up in Lincolnshire, poor souls. When mum and I used to stay with them in the summer holidays, (I was the much youngest of three, the other two mostly didn’t come with us) grandma and granddad lived in a village called Snape, near Aldeburgh, on the Suffolk coast.

We walked along the beach at Aldeburgh, up the Town Steps, down Crag Path, visited the Book Shop and the Wine Shop, (which I think has gone). We visited Snape Maltings, walked at Foxes Corner and along part of the Sailors Path at Iken Cliff where my great uncle Cecil used to live at Jumbo’s Cottage. (That’s what he was called, Jumbo, and he taught people to sail at Slaughdon.) We had ‘bbqs’ with their friends, Renee and Charlie at Tunstall Forest. We had wonderful times, can you tell?

Grandma cooked, you know, proper cooking. Steak pie, chocolate eclairs, bramble jelly, the freshly baked biscuits in the saucer of a cup of tea in bed (me, not the tea…) more than compensated for it being barely 6.30 in the morning. They grew potatoes, runner beans and strawberries in the garden.

But how did grandma know I was going to cook too? When they moved into their sheltered flat, grandma gave me her well used and much loved preserving pan, saying “You’re most likely to use it…” and yet, I don’t remember having shown much promise in the kitchen at that point, let alone any signs that I was going to be a wife and mother (of four. Careless.) and until now has only been used to soak a ham joint that was too big to fit in anything else, but, here I am today, using the preserving pan to make Seville Orange Marmalade.

First time I’ve made a marmalade or jam, although I’ve had a foray into preserving before. I made Green Tomato Chutney in the autumn. We’d grown tomatoes for the first time and, not surprisingly, they all came at once. Still have several jars lurking in the cupboard. Ho hum.

I did mention walking, if you were paying attention to my drivel, but I have been walking. I totted up 16 miles last week, which is plenty after barely setting foot outside on the ice for four weeks. I walked yesterday, about 5.5 miles with Lyn and Louise. Angela came too, but she’s hopping with crutches at the moment* so didn’t do the full distance. Oddly, she found the ice a bit tricky. We still have ice. my Kahtoolas are my new best friends and I’m not smug! In places the ice was so thick that even in these tropical temperatures of just above freezing, without the aid of sunlight, it’s not thawing that quickly. Saturday’s girly walk is under threat, with all this ice, deep snow just inland and our leader hopping, I’m not sure we’re going to make it. Again.

*There has been a little gentle digging at Angela going on. She strained a tendon in her knee sledging on Christmas Day, at her age! Silly girl. Poor girl’s finding it really frustrating now though as she is usually so busy and active (I think she’s ADHD myself…) and she’s having to be really careful and not try to rush her recovery. I persuaded her off the ice at one point yesterday, she’d hopped much further than we thought sensible and had been offered a lift. She took it and I think she was glad!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Crampons, ceilidh and woodpeckers

Yes! My Kahtoola Microspikes arrived on Saturday morning, just as the thaw began and we set off to the ceilidh venue…

The ceilidh was fine. A late ‘Works Christmas do’, not postponed, just organised and booked too late. I didn’t drink as much as some, mainly because we had the children staying at the hotel with us and one of us had to be in a fit state to drive the next morning. I’ve been to worse dos, the ceilidh band were good, I just wasn’t feeling that Christmassy!

So, yesterday I went out for my regular weekly walk with my friend Louise. It’s usually just a 5-6 mile route, as we both have other things we should be doing and we went in search of ice. Wasn’t that difficult to find some. The track we usually take to enter the woods was thick with the stuff, so on went the microspikes.

They are my new favourite things. I love them. They are the dog’s doodahs, if you don’t mind me saying. If only I’d had them four weeks ago, my walking trousers wouldn’t be feeling quite so snug!

To top it off, we heard some great spotted woodpeckers drumming in the woods and saw one of them, right at the top of a very spindly tree. I’ve seen one before, but it was fantastic to hear the drumming. They might have been celebrating a break in the chill.

Little did they know, the frozen wastes had returned when I went for a stroll to Findhorn today. Sadly, not enough to whip my spikes out again, but there’s always more ice at some time!

I love my spikes. They are my new best friends.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Stumbling in the snow

01 12 10_0588 01 12 10_0583

I ventured out into the frozen wastes of the marshes yesterday and it wasn’t actually too bad. I didn’t slip or fall at all, which is quite an achievement for me, given the conditions. There was just another couple and ‘Alfie’, their black lab, out at the same time, but they soon got fed up and left me in peace. I even took the camera for an outing!

There were some red-breasted mergansers and a fair sized flock of some other ducks, possibly teal, wigeon, pochard, those type of thing, but I couldn’t get close enough (I’d taken the camera but not the binoculars. Doh!) to get a good look, so left them to it.

01 12 10_058501 12 10_0579

I managed to cross the ‘bridge’ without falling into the burn, which I was pleased about, and when I reached the plucking post, I found some recent remains of some poor creature the buzzard had been snacking on.

01 12 10_0604 01 12 10_0607

The little streamlets that weave their merry little way around the marshes were largely frozen over, but some have been smashed to reveal the thickness of the ice. I chose my path carefully.

01 12 10_0600

I didn’t go out today, there is quite a thaw going on, but because of the depth of ice, the water is sitting on top, making it even more slippery. I’ve got to go to a Ceilidh on Saturday, I need to at least arrive in one piece. If I arrive damaged, I won’t be able to dance. Now, there’s an idea, armchair Ceilidh. The best kind!

Unexpected visitors

But luckily,  not of the outlaw variety.

I’ve been keeping an eye open for siskins in the garden. They usually only visit during times of winter hardship and I thought this everlasting frozen wasteland we are enduring just about  fitted the bill. So, I’ve been watching. We have plenty of these chaps, fighting mostly.

12 29 09_0656

And I’ve seen some quite large flocks of redwings and fieldfares together, this was a passing small group. Camouflaged.

12 29 09_0661

Then one of these little chaps appeared.


And he brought friends. We now have four yellowhammers that are regularly visiting, which is nice for a change. Then, this chap appeared from nowhere.

01 12 10_0628

Now that is a welcome unexpected visitor!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Getting ridiculous now

This snow business is getting a little silly now. I’m glad it didn’t all fall in one go, it would have been quite deep and tricky, but in dribs and drabs with a mix of thaw, hard frost, rain, hail, snow again, it’s just getting out of hand. Ciara and I had planned to walk everyday of the holidays, they're back to school on Thursday, (Thursday, I ask you, what’s that all about?!) and we’ve been for one stroll together and I walked home from Tesco, alone. I suppose the children did go sledging a couple of times and out to build snowmen etc., but Ciara’s ‘cuddle’ is beginning to take over. We need to take ‘cuddle’ in hand and soon!

I don’t think I can remember conditions quite like this, I really should invest in some sort of crampons. The cold itself wouldn’t put me off walking for so long, it’s the absolute knowledge that I would not stay upright beyond the doorstep and even that’s a bit tricky. Still, at least I’m quite reasonably padded at the moment, that should lend protection…

I’ve got to get out there.