About Country lover

Living in a cottage in rural Wales with my horse, cat and dog. Country lover; lover of good food (and cooking and growing it) and wine; riding my horse around the country lanes; tending my garden/veg patch and chickens; current/world affairs; good conversation and reading. Lived in Italy in my 20s so love Italian food and all things Italian! Retired in 2013.

The twist of fate !

My disappearance from social media since I retired at the end of April, has to be put down to many challenges, and projects, interspersed by a series of horse-related accidents that have befallen me since then.

The core of my retirement time has been taken up with riding four, sometimes, five days a week. Poor little Max didn’t know what hit him! Still, they were only gentle hacks around the country lanes for a few hours. These would take up half a day, once he had been turned out in his field, after which I could carry on with working to get my cottage, land and buildings, back to their former glory.

Hacking through the undergrowth behind the stables (with my pruning saw, not my horse, tee hee hee), comprising nettles and overgrown elderberries, that hadn’t seen the light of day for at least six years, I discovered, to my horror, that the wooden back walls were suffering badly due to rot and woodworm.

I would have loved to have replaced the planks myself, but my woodwork skills, I’m afraid, are non-existant. However, I’m a dab hand with a paint brush so, after purchasing new boards and giving them a couple of coats of creosote, John, a neighbour, removed and replaced the offending boards. I have done my bit by giving the two stables a couple of coats of the preservative. My, didn’t the wood drink it up! It took three times as many containers of the stuff to finish the job than I had bargained for!

I’ve also creosoted the barn doors that, under close inspection, were found to be on their last legs. (I had thought this 23 years ago when I moved in!) So something needs to be done there, watch this space, as they say.

Am dead chuffed because I’ve filled lots of holes in the barn walls with mortar, prior to painting them black. I chose not to use black tar varnish, which would have been used in days of yore, but went with Sandtex black masonary paint instead. It’s not shiney, and I feel that it’s kinder on the eye.

I have completed two and a half walls and it’s looking, although I say it myself, very smart. Barrie, another kind neighbour is sorting out the south facing end wall, which needs some radical surgery and a lime rendering. (To sort out the mistakes that a previous local builder, had made some eight years ago, at no small cost.)

Home paddock is looking brilliant, with 85% less buttercups after my purge on them this Spring.

A few weeks after Max had tripped me up, with me landing flat on my back in front of him on the road, he bucked me off in a stubble field. Luckily somebody in a local farmhouse was on hand to call 999, as I didn’t know where I was!  I spent the next hour in an ambulance!  It was my first time in an ambulance and in the care of  paramedics who were lovely. Fortunately, I was wearing my back protector, and, despite having been catapulted out of the saddle and landing with a crash on my back on the hard ground I suffered no more than mild whiplash !

This couldn’t be said for horse-related accident number three. Last Wednesday, we had been out for a lovely gentle ride (needless to say not on any stubble fields!) when, like every ride for the preceding 7 years the time came to dismount (get off, to the uninitiated). Easy peasey. Feet out of the stirrups, lean forward swinging your right leg over the horse’s rump….As I was at the point of no return, i.e. swinging my leg over his rump, for a reason only known to him, he decided to take a step away from my movement, leaving his front left leg behind. At this point I had started my  descent…. and my  right foot, instead of landing squarely on the ground, came down on his foot and the force of landing crookedly twisted my ankle over. Such excruciating pain! Ouch!!

With difficulty I hopped him into his stable and untacked him and let him out in the paddock and hopped into the house. I continued in this hoppity vein (with the help of my late mum’s walking stick) for the next two days (with more help from a friend, Nicky, who looked after Max for me).

Tried the frozen pea trick (well frozen mange tous actually) to bring the swelling down. Fortunately I had some Volterol and painkillers, which made it all much more comfortable, but my foot and ankle swelled and became bluer each day that passed.

I had phoned 111 the NHS helpline on Thursday, which I thought was defunct, but the nurse was lovely, and very helpful saying that it sounded like a bad sprain. However, if my foot went numb, or I had more pain or pins and needles then I was to call an ambulance.

I didn’t want to drive the 13 miles to the A&E as I worried about my insurance should  I have an accident, driving with a dodgey ankle. Also if I got to the hospital, and my ankle was found to be broken, how would I get my car home? Didn’t like to divert an ambulance away from a serious case, just to help me. Didn’t like to trouble a neighbour to drive me into the city. What a dilemma! So I just continued hopping around.

Poor Alfie, my new addition to the family, was having to make do with just a hoppy walk down the drive and dashing around after his tennis ball.

On Friday evening, after a long Skype call with my brother in Sweden, I decided to call 111 again as I was getting really bad pains up the back of my leg. The outcome was an ambulance arriving at ten minutes to midnight to take me to A&E. My goodness twice in an ambulance in my lifetime and both within 3 weeks! How crazy is that?

After a three and a half hour wait, I was seen by a doctor and taken to radiology. After a short while, I was wheeled around to the ‘plaster room’. “So,” I said to the guy in there, I suppose I’ve broken my ankle, and I’ve been hobbling about on it for three days, oh dear!”

They supplied me with a snazzy pair of hospital jim jam bottoms; plastered my leg; gave me a rush course on how to walk on crutches and released me into the wide world. Well, into a taxi that took me home, arriving at 6.15 a.m Saturday morning.

Can we go out for a walk now mum?

Can we go out for a walk now mum?

Next post will relate the trials and tribulations of a 65 year old, on crutches, for the first time and a few tips for those who find themselves in the same position.

 

 

 

 

Battling with modern technology

I have come to the conclusion, all things considered, that I prefer living alone. Except, that is, for one thing. Instruction manuals.

Whether for my Dyson, washing machine, tumble drier, lawnmower, TV or Nikon camera, I am really phased when it comes to reading the instruction booklets. I can’t get passed the basic instructions before my eyes start to glaze over and I start to think what I want for tea. In the past, I would pass them to my ex asking him to read them and to give me a precis of what I needed to do.

But he is no longer here, so I need to cope with it by myself. A month or so back I took delivery of a super duper backpack sprayer which has an inbuilt battery and a little trolley on which to pull it. Great, I thought, not relishing the thought of lugging around 15 litres of weedkiller, not to mention the weight of the plastic carrier and inbuilt battery, on  my back!

It said that it came charged, but I thought I had better check. Read the instructions, up to the point where it said ‘charging the battery’. Didn’t read any further, of course, no need. Found all the correct holes to push leads into and, hey presto, a constant green light lit up, which the instruction booklet said meant that the battery was charged.

Okay, so I put some water in it. Needed to check that all the seals were tight and there were no leakages… Now to turn it on. Oer, nothing but a high pitched whining noise. Quickly turned it off. Perhaps I needed to turn the pressure knob up? Tried that, still no joy. After checking the ‘trouble shooting’ section in the instruction booklet, I discovered that the high pitched noise was indicating that the battery wasn’t charged. ( I could have seen that, if I had taken the trouble to look at the battery level dial – ho hum.) Oh, buggerations, I thought just my luck to have a faulty battery charger.

I had resigned myself to phoning the ebay supplier the next day when I heard my neighbour in his shed next door. Er, Andy, I said, do you think you could help me? He too, at first, was puzzled by the constant green light when we put the battery on charge. That is… er…. until he .. er.. read further into the instructions. At some point further on it said, “sometimes the charger will show a constant green light when it is on standby” (i.e. not charging). Say no more!

Last year, another neighbour, another Andy, funnily enough, promised to cut my beech/hornbeam hedge for me each year if I would lend him my cutter for his hedges. I was thrilled because my only means of cutting my hedges was with the hedgecutter attachment on my strimmer. The petrol strimmer, with this attachment on the end of its long arm, is very heavy and beyond my powers to use for more than 5 minutes at a time. So I readily accepted his offer.

(Starting the strimmer also seems to be beyond my powers at the moment. Twice this week I have been all set to strim off the paddock as it has been two weeks since the buttercups had been sprayed. But could I get it started? Nope.)

Anyway, not liking to be beholden to people, the independent creature that I am, I decided to buy a battery operated hedge cutter so I could cut my hedges when I wanted. After humming and haaing over two, I settled for the Bosch.

It arrived yesterday, and late last night I started to read the instructions. Er, not a good time to attempt to read instructions!  Looked at the diagram and learned what everything was and where it all was. Now, how do I charge the battery? Read the instructions and it said ‘press the battery unlocking button to remove the battery’. Eh? Went back to the little diagram. No, I wasn’t imagining things… no ‘battery unlocking button’ was shown on the diagram. How could they miss that off ? Mmm, I thought, why don’t they get a woman to write the instructions? Then, and only then, we might be able to understand them!

After a good night’s sleep I picked up the instructions again. They were no further help than they had been the night before. So I had to guess that the red button above the battery was what was needed to remove it. Wrestling with the cutter on the floor for several minutes I managed to, finally, unlock the battery and put it on charge. Hurrah, I thought, another battle won!

Next job this morning was to do some washing, as I see that insertions on Ebay this weekend are foc. Want to clear out office clothes from my wardrobe and this is a good weekend to sell them.

What’s that on the washing machine? A red light that I haven’t seen before? It’s not clean filter or empty water tray (it’s a condenser drier). Er, clean condenser? What’s that? That’s new. Now, where is the instruction manual? Oh, clean condenser every month? I didn’t know that. Only had the drier 18 months. What’s that? Failure to do so could result in a malfunction. Oh dear.

Another five minutes wrestling with the drier this time. It’s in a corner, up against a cupboard, so there is a finite angle it has to be in, in order to pull out the long condenser drawer. I won’t go into details here about the amount of gunge there was in it and how it blocked up the bath plughole.

Lesson is to read instructions from beginning to end, and then again. I wonder if I will next time?

 

100s of rescued hens looking for loving homes!

Come on peeps, all of you who, over the last few years, have told me that you would just love to keep hens. Now here’s your opportunity to help some little hens that hitherto have had a pretty rotten life.

500+ ex battery hens are now ready to start new lives with owners who will give them the care and attention they deserve.

Little Hen Rescue of Flordon, near Norwich, have rescued yet more hens that were destined for slaughter after having spent their lives in cages laying eggs for supermarkets.

These hens are friendly and make great pets. Those of you who are interested should phone Little Hen Rescue rehoming line Monday or Friday evenings (8.00 to 9.30 pm)  07717 757596 or, preferably, email Jo Eglen at littlehenrescue@aol.com  For more information visit www.littlehensrescue.co.uk

Over 800 rescued battery hens arrived at Little Hen Rescue last Saturday and I was there to help unload them.  They had endured the three and a half hour journey from Leicester pretty well.  I was surprised to see how good they looked. No featherless ones; none with bad peck wounds, or, indeed any sort of wound.  Apparently the farm from which the hens came, was particularly good on welfare and, although kept in large cages, all the hens looked really well.

I helped unload them from their crates into the large, roomy loose boxes where they’ll live until they go to their new homes… I wanted to bring them all home with me but, sadly, I couldn’t. Although I had lost Hattie the other week, I couldn’t take any. You have to take a minimum of two, but I have four and I think to add another two to the flock would be a bit too many for my coop, so I’ll have to wait until another falls of her perch. It’s about time for Dottie, who is 7 or 8, but she shows no sign of ‘popping her clogs’. Then poor Buffy didn’t, she just went. What a lovely way to go. No suffering.

For those of you who may be wondering how little Lottie, my surviving ex batt is getting on, she is a little star, who has started laying. Well…. sort of. She is Polly’s constant shadow (do you remember how awful Polly was too her when she first arrived?) – it’s so funny to watch. They are best of mates now. Long may it last.

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Church flower festival

Weather permitting, I have been beavering away in the garden, paddock and fields trying to bring order back to the Countryidyll domain since retiring some six or seven weeks ago.  I have to admit that the weather is not helping as it is stopping me from getting on. Not because we’ve had much rain, on the contrary, I’m afraid. But because it’s been so, so windy and cold. I really hate working outside in the wind, it makes me so irritable! My hair blows in my face and I can’t see so I put on a hat.. then I get too hot. Can’t win really. Ho hum.

Max, on the other hand, is really a good boy being ridden on a windy day (not quite such an angel when I’m leading him!) so have settled into a routine of riding four times a week, which we are both happy with.

Yesterday I took an hour or so out of my day to visit the flower festival at our village church. It certainly was time well spent. There were some really splendid flower arrangements as well, I hasten to add, an excellent carrot cake and cuppa. I have to admit that I had two helpings of cake, it was so good!  Didn’t feel too guilty as, on my return home, I mowed the lawn, which is quite a fair bit of walking!

I have posted some photos of the flower arrangements below, so that you can judge for yourself.

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Rest in peace, Hattie dear

It’s with a very heavy heart I have to write that I have lost another hen. Hattie, originally known as Ruby, one of my two new ex-battery hens who arrived just three weeks ago, died tonight.

She’s never been so perky as her compatriot, Lottie (originally Nellie), who is very feisty. She has spent a lot of time in the coop ever since she arrived, but I noticed today that she was moving very slowly. I gave her a sugary drink to see if it would perk her up. But, if anything, she seemed worse. When I came in for supper, she had put herself to bed, but I feared she wouldn’t last the night.

Went out to close their pophole a while ago and I found her dead in the run. I am gutted. So sad. I feel guilty that I didn’t pick up on it earlier, but it is so difficult to see changes in an animal’s behaviour when you aren’t familiar with it. Oh dear, I feel as though I have let her down…. *She says with a large lump in her throat*

My one consolation is that she had a couple of months of freedom from her previous life in a battery cage.

Hattie  2nd June rip

Hattie 2nd June rip

The Weedkiller terrorist

Weedkiller terrorist 4

Hurrah, I’ve finally finished spraying home paddock with weedkiller, even though it’s a bit breezy today. Glad the postman didn’t come, as I wrapped scarves around my head to protect my skin, so I look very suspicious!

Prefer not to spray if it’s windy as the weedkiller drifts. But, I have to say, I’m very pleased with the type of weedkiller I used. As you can see from the photo below, home paddock comprised 90% buttercups and plantains, hardly any grass.

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As buttercups are notoriously difficult to kill, I went for a specialist weedkiller, which cost me an arm and a leg, but I think it was well worth it as it certainly knocks them on the head very quickly! I now have to wait two weeks before I can cut it.

I sprayed the bottom of the paddock during the May 1st Bank Holiday, and mowed it after a couple of weeks.  Absolutely brilliant!

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May have to spray it again later in the year, or next Spring, but let’s hope that’s the end of them…. for good.

Yippee, one big job nearly finished… on to the next one… the garden….

 

Who said keeping hens is easy?

I’d like to say that Ruby and Nellie, my two new ex-battery hens have settled in happily, but I can’t.

My previous experience of introducing new hens into my established flock, was when dear Buffy (rip) and Polly came four or five years ago. At that time the alpha hen was Hettie who, although she was boss, was a very kind hen. Everything went very smoothly and they were accepted into the flock only a few days after their arrival.

When dear Hettie ‘fell off her perch’ Polly, the Light Sussex took over as alpha hen, or ‘top dog’ ! I’m afraid I can’t say that she is a kind hen. She is a busy, neurotic, precocious hen that is bossy,and really ‘in your face’.

Polly, alpha hen

Polly, alpha hen

She is the only hen I have had that squats when you wave your hand over her. This squatting is an invitation to the cockerel to mount her! She must be more highly sexed, maybe than the other hens. For this reason, when she gets too hyper she tries to mount the other hens. Poor Buffy, was always the one that she picked on. Buffy was at the bottom of the pecking order, but she was a big hen and could take the weight of a mature Light Sussex, which is a large hen. Polly only did it now and again, so I didn’t perceive it to be a problem.

Poor Ruby, the larger of my two ex-batts, but still only half the size of Polly, is the one that Polly keeps chasing.  If she corners her, she jumps on her.  So far Ruby seems unscathed, no loss of feathers, nevertheless a frightening experience!  I am sure that if I had a cockerel, he would sort Polly out, but that would be yet another mouth to feed. As it is, I now have five hens and Polly is the only one laying.

Needless to say that Ruby and Nellie are still going to bed each night in their little broody coop that is inside the hens’ run. They do go in and out of the main coop during the day, just not at night. Yet.

Oh dear, why do I always make my life more complicated? I just want an easy life!

On a more positive note, this week more swallows arrived, so the sky around the stables is full of them swooping, circling and chattering! Such a lovely sight.

Names needed for new arrivals

The sad demise of Buffy has freed up space in the coop for one or two more hens. I was hoping that Winnie or Dottie would pop their clogs as they really are not very friendly, and haven’t laid for nearly two years. It’s always the way, the nicest hens die first!

Today I picked up two little ex-battery ladies. So tiny compared with my big hens. They’ll stay for a few days in the little ark, then I’ll put the ark inside the hens’ run, then after another few days,  I’ll let them all out together. It worked well when I introduced Buffy and Polly to the flock, let’s hope that it will this time.

They don’t have names and I would be very grateful if you could suggest some please.

Names needed for two little ex-batts

Names needed for two little ex-batts

Goodbye glory hole

When I was decorating the kitchen last year I had fully intended doing the pantry too, but when push came to shove, I didn’t. I’d had such a fight to get the wallpaper off in the kitchen (that I had pasted up 15 years before), I couldn’t face the same again in the pantry. Nor could I face finding homes for all the stuff that was in there.

Back in March I bit the bullet and started stripping wallpaper. Only a tiny space, but a pain to do.

Pantry during decoration

The contiboard shelves had to be 25+ years old and definitely needed to be replaced. Pine I thought, would be fine. I could paint them with some of that Cuprinol wood wash, in an ash colour. That would sort of fit in with the limed oak effect in the kitchen proper.

As I was driving to B & Q one Wednesday evening to take advantage of their 10% discount day for oaps to purchase said wood, I started to think that it would look quite nice if I could resource a double base unit like those in the kitchen. So my trip to Norwich to save 10% on just some sandpaper and varnish was a bit of a waste of time!

I scoured ebay and found similar kitchens, in Manchester, the south west and Essex. Mmm, Essex isn’t far, I thought. But it was a whole kitchen and was sure they wouldn’t want to let me have just one double base unit. Back to the drawing board.  Then I remembered John, the carpenter, who lived in the village. I know he’d made whole kitchens for various other village folk. Perhaps I could get a quote from him to replace the shelves and build a front, to make a cupboard?

To cut a long story short, he came over and said that yes, of course he could do that for me. So we agreed a price. He was to make a cupboard across the alcove, in oak (that he had) with two shelves, and I was to lime wax it.

It took a bit of time to arrive, and when it did it was a piece of furniture ! He had made a proper cupboard with sides, top and shelves. Only thing missing was the back. It looked brilliant and, thankfully, slotted in fine, despite the wonky cottage walls! He also replaced the shelves above the cupboard and along the back pantry wall, and over the fridge.

I spent a happy morning roughing up the grain with wire wool and applying lime wax.  I think it looks great. I wonder what you think?

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