pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

An Utterby Hidden Gem

Utterby is a Lincolnshire village, which is intersected by the A16 road.   It is an attractive village with some equestrian properties, one property which looks as though it could be where "The Good Life" is now being lived, and plenty of nice country homes.
Just off the main road is a lane, take it and you are led into another world.  A quiet, leafy lane which just reeks of money - both old, and new.   The village church lies down this lane and I'll post about it another time.   This is the Manor House, which is located right opposite the church, it was built in 1639, I believe.  

However, the thing which I was investigating was this little bridge.

It is almost parallel with the road and is so small you could very easily overlook it.

This particular bridge dates from the 14th Century, but would have replaced a much earlier one.

It is a packhorse bridge.  Packhorses were the main method of transporting goods; wheeled carts were very rare - and it certainly would not have been possible for one to pass over this narrow bridge.
From Roman times salt had been produced on the coast and transported from the coast to inland towns, along a 'salt way' and it is thought that this was on an old salt route.   It is very narrow.  Of course I had to walk across it and tried to imagine what it must have been like back in those days.  Some days I feel like an old packhorse, so it wasn't difficult.

You may wonder why I called it a gem, after all, it is only a bridge, albeit an old one.  It is one of only three surviving salt bridges left in the country.  A rare and special example of something which was important.

It is tiny and would only allow the passage of a single horse at a time.   The lack of a parapet is usually explained as allowing the laden horse to pass over unhindered.

As I walked back the lane to visit the church I notice this row of stones..
...a little detective work tells me that they are what remains of a causeway which led to the little bridge.

All this history, a mere couple of hundred yards off the main road - which I have driven so many hundreds, if not thousands of times, and I didn't know about it.

The churchyard has a wildflower area, to encourage wildlife - a delightful surprise.
Somewhere, hidden away is an old holy well, which in ancient times was considered to have healing properties.  Pilgrims who visited it left their bandages on the surrounding bushes...

A few years ago someone found the well and cleared it, but it was dry.  When he re-visited about 6 months later it had filled with red/brown water.   I couldn't find any sign of it and there were no bandages to guide me, thank goodness.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The New Ming Dynasty

It is almost a year since we saw Jonny pack his bag and travel to China to spend a year teaching English at Shanghai University.    So much has happened since then.  Hatches, matches, dispatches.  Life.

This photograph shows Jonny setting off on the first leg of his journey, last August.

He came home for four weeks holiday - and how that time has flown by, in a flurry of getting some of the heavy jobs done around this place.

We have him home for just a few more days, then he will return to Shaghai.  Almost immediately upon his return he'll be  teaching children at a summer camp, then life will return to normal as he resumes work at a university.
A major difference will be that this beautiful woman will be waiting to meet him!   I'd like to introduce you (I do have Jonny's permission) to Mingming.

We have all 'met' her via QQ calls...and yes, she is as lovely as she looks.   Mingming is 25 years old, a strong, stubbornly independent woman.   Not only is she gorgeous, she's vivacious, intelligent and speaks much better English than she gives herself credit for.   I should add that her English is self-taught, mainly from books!
All I know is that she makes my boy happy.  
That's all that matters to me.

Welcome Mingming!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The First Time Ever I Saw a Horse...

We had a typically trying Thursday morning, the details don't really this afternoon, when we had the opportunity to take 6 month old Francesca to visit Arnold for her first ever sighting of a horse, we leapt at the chance.  

I expected it to be something special, she adores the cats and Toby.

Neither Arnold, nor Francesca disappointed.

Francesca couldn't take her eyes off him, she studied him closely for a few minutes, then she wanted him.

Arnold reciprocated.  He wanted to smell her toes;  he playfully nibbled George's arms and performed a full repertoire of tricks to keep her attention.

It worked.

Another girl who LOVES horses!

We also introduced her to the 'horseless carriage' except this one does have a horses head ornament.  She loved that too...

This girl could cost you serious money, Daddy...

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Happiness is...

Jonny holding Francesca and showing her to his girlfriend, Ming Ming, in China - courtesy of Skype.
The sight of 4 year old Harry charging around the gardens, plastered in factor 50 sun cream and wearing nothing but a huge grin and a pair of crocs.    

These huge American, Heritage tomatoes - grown from seed sent to me by Meggie on the Prairie.

My friendship with Meggie.

Seeing how well the surviving vegetables are responding to a few days of warmth and sunshine.

Sometimes when I bake bread the texture of the dough just feels perfect, and I know it is going to be a wonderful batch.

The smell of freshly baked bread.

A slice of fresh home-made bread, slathered in butter.

The perfume of sweetpeas  and their beautiful colours.

Today we drove a few miles to visit the ruins of Bolingbroke Castle...

it lies in a dip in the Wolds, in one of the most peaceful villages in Lincolnshire, far from any main road.

The castle was built in 1220 and a King of England was born here...I'll post fully about the castle in a day or two.

Just a short distance from the ruins there is a church and we also took a look around it.

The sky was blue, the sun shone; it is a place steeped in history, and I had two of my favourite men with me.

This is not an exclusive list of things which make me happy, but it is a short list of some of the things which made me happy today.

Did anything make you happy?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Tawny Owl in the Wood, & Bird Poop on My Head

Today was going very nicely - gardening jobs are getting crossed off the list and everywhere is looking much tidier.  

George was fitting shelving into the shed when he heard a Tawny Owl and he very kindly abandoned his tools to come and tell me about it.

The wood was silent by the time I arrived, but I walked in as far as the owl box and stood contemplating it, wondering whether there was an owl inside it.  Something made me look up and there in the tree, about twenty feet off the ground was a huge pair of eyes...they belonged to a Tawny Owl and she/he was calmly looking back at me.
Tawny Owl, image by
Unfortunately,  I didn't have my camera with me.  We must have looked at each other for a full minute, before she unhurriedly flew off.  I wonder whether this could be one of the pair who raised the young owlets in our box a couple of years ago ... or, perhaps it is one of the young owls, checking on the old family home.

The white 'V' at the top, middle of the photo
is where the Tawny Owl was perched!
Of course I keep finding myself wandering into the wood to check the trees for owls - we heard her call a short time ago.  Fingers crossed, I shall see her again before too long.  Probably when I am least expecting it.

I took Toby and the two cats for an evening stroll around the wood.  I didn't expect to see the owl, especially as the cats were being energetic and running up and down trees, showing off to each other - but I did keep scanning the tree tops, just in case.

Suddenly, there was a plop on my head as a splat of bird poop landed on target and splattered down my blouse.   Remarkably, in all the time we have owned this place, and during the many thousands of walks I have taken around the wood, this has never happened before.

I stood there in disbelief... and then I started laughing.

Moving Day!

Yesterday dawned dry, unusual for this summer.  We decided to tackle a job which has been on the 'To Do' list for a long time and move a shed, which was left by the previous owners, to a better location.  The gazebo was put up, shed emptied and dismantled.  I left all of that to George and Jonny.
I just continued with my weeding, hoeing and forking, trying to make up for the weeks of neglect due to the rainy weather.  I had my trusty assistants - Little Red Hen and Toby, the cats came and went, easily bored.

LRH stayed very close, observing every forkful of soil, checking every weed I pulled.  She constantly burbled and chatted and was great company.

Toby was not impressed, he was bored - and showed it.  I had to laugh because when the cats got too close LRH would suddenly charge at them and the cats ran away, scared.  She even had a go at Toby, once, when he ventured too close.

As I continued to pull weeds and tidy the vegetable beds and pathways George and Jonny dismantled the shed and took up the old base.  They made some interesting discoveries.  There were three fat toads and one nest.  It looked like a mouse nest, but turned out to be something much more interesting.

No mice ran from it, but we could hear a buzzing sound - it was a tiny 'beehive' built inside an old mouse nest which had been under the floor of the shed.

We asked John the beekeeper about it and he very kindly came along and checked it out for us.  He found it fascinating - something new to him.  Definitely a beehive, we saw the enormous queen and the tiny collection of cells within the nest.

He recommended that we cover it over, with easy access for the bees and then move it very slowly over a period of time to a new, safer site.  It has to be done slowly or else the worker bees won't be able to find their way home.

This is the new view from the Owl Wood gate, no ugly shed!  It is so much easier on the eye, and the silver birch tree looks much prettier now that it is no longer butting up to a tool shed.  The garden is a real mish-mash of levels, slopes, retaining walls, no doubt they all helped to exacerbate the recent drainage problems.

The sun is shining brightly and I am heading out to do some more work in the vegetable garden - no rain is forecast today.

It should be a bright, bright, sunshiney day!

I won't hold my breath, though, this is England.  Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Ha-ha at Burghley House - Fridays Fences

A few days ago we took some time off to visit the magnificent Burghley House, near Stamford in Lincolnshire.  It is a huge Elizabethan house built by Sir William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.  When time is not so short, I will do a posting about the visit.

Click to enlarge!
For one of my entries for Fridays Fences I thought I would show you the
ha-ha - it is the brick wall, which you can see in the foreground.

It was  designed to give uninterrupted views of the grounds, while keeping livestock out of the gardens.

It looks fairly small in this photograph, but the trench in front of it is deep and the wall is about six feet high.

The house is vast.

One of the new additions in the grounds is the Sculpture Garden.     It is home to a wide ranging, ever changing selection of sculptures. 

I particularly liked these cattle, I chose them for today, because they are placed behind  a rather spindly fence, made from copper coloured metal.

They are life size and work wonderfully in that setting.  The finish is rough and they are gradually unravelling.

Once again I am delighted to be joining in Friday's Fences with Jan n Jer.  If you click on the link you will find lots of great fences to enjoy.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Just Another Day in Nowhere

This dismal summer is trundling along.  Everything that needs to be done  gets done, eventually.  Often in pouring rain.  The rain causes its own problems.  Drainage problems, of all kinds.  Something I never gave thought to when I was a town or city dweller.  This summer, drainage has been an everyday problem.

Holes and inspection pits have had to be dug as problems with soakaways have been an ever present headache.

Here George and Jonny are captured in a rare moment of inactivity.

The large pits are about three feet deep, so they have shifted a lot of smelly, wet, very heavy clay soil to get down there.  They have worked in sunshine and in heavy rain.

Late yesterday the job was finally declared finished, the pits were closed.

We shall see when the next monsoon rains fall.

I am happy to dig, empty wheelbarrows, etc.  but my role this time was to make coffees and hand out biscuits.

I took Toby to the fish ponds and was delighted to see that the water lilies are in bloom - the water may look murky, but the lilies are beautiful.

Toby seemed eager to go on, leg problems forgotten - so we went through the fields to Claythorpe.  

I had just climbed a stile and was watching the sheep when I felt something touch my hand - it was a sheep.

Here she is.  I spent a moment petting her and remembering the two lambs which I was fortunate to have bottle fed, many years ago in the Western Isles.

I also pondered over whether this could be the same sheep which my friend The Viking encountered on his recent walk.

This was the view from your cottage, Meggie.

It was oh so peaceful.

We walked home slowly as Toby was getting a bit tired.  He slept contentedly for the rest of the afternoon, chasing rabbits and dreaming of juicy marrowbones no doubt.

This pretty poppy was gifted to me several years ago.  It was a gift from the blue tits who took over the electric meter box one summer.

I kept them safe and protected from meter readers and in return they left me a single poppy.   I saved the seeds and now have them growing around the place.  I always think of them as my thank-you gift.
This beautiful rose grows up the cottage wall.  I don't know what it is called, but the blooms are large and the perfume is wonderful.

It was finally time for me to come back down to earth and get the kettle on, make sandwiches and check on the workers.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Recipes & Kitchen Hints from Long Ago

The rain is falling, again.  Time to browse my bookshelves before I have to do the evening meal.

It is far too long since I last opened my very old recipe books - they are packed with outdated and old-fashioned recipes, but I love reading them.  

Cookery was very different then.  I don't just mean that our attitude to food has changed, I mean that ovens didn't come with temperature gauges and electric mixers, food processors, etc were a long way off.

Image borrowed from cookingwithmavis
Caledonian Cream

Mix 2ozs of each, raspberry jam, redcurrant jelly and castor sugar with the whites of 2 eggs stiffly whipped.  OK so far?   Beat for 3/4 hour.  Serve piled in custard glasses.  
Can you imagine standing there beating the mixture for 45 minutes?

How to Select Flour: 
In selecting flour first look to the colour.  If it is white, with a yellowish, straw-coloured tint, buy it.  If it is white, with a blueish cast, or with black specks in it refuse it.  Next examine its adhesiveness.  Wet and knead a little of it between the fingers.  If it works soft and sticky it is poor.  Then throw a little lump of dried flour against a smooth surface.  If it falls like powder it is bad.  It is perfectly safe to buy flour that will stand all these tests.
I wonder how well this would go down in the supermarket!

Use for Old Curtains - Old curtains well washed make excellent poultice cloths, also for tying cauliflowers and asparagus in when cooking.  It prevents them breaking, and is easy to try if done.  I wonder how long they were being boiled for...

Image by Delicious Magazine

Talking of Vegetables...

"Young carrots take about an hour to boil, those which are older from an hour and a half to two hours..."

It makes me wonder whether, perhaps, the varieties of carrot which they used to have were more fibrous than modern ones.

I searched for the method of cooking Brussels Sprouts, expecting to be told to boil them for three hours, but was pleasantly surprised to find the recommended time was 13 minutes.

A  1796   recipe for Parsnips Fried to Look Like Trout
Why would you want to, was my first thought.  Then I wondered whether they could look like trout, seeing this image makes me think that perhaps it would be possible...if you squint and look through one eye... perhaps?  Or do they look like baby stingrays?
Image borrowed from
Take a middling sort of parnsips, not over thick, and boil them as soft as you would do for eating; peel, and cut them, in two the long way.  You must only fry the small ends, not the thick ones.  Beat two or three eggs, put to them a tablespoonful of flour, dip in your parsnips, and fry them a light brown in the butter.  Have for your sauce a little vinegar and butter.

...and finally... a 'fish' recipe.

Mackerel Bones Grilled

Sprinkle the bones with pepper and salt.  Broil over a clear fire, but don't burn.  Serve on hot buttered fingers of toast.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Leaning Tower of Sollerby

The bell tower of All Saints' Church, in  Saltfleetby (pronounced "Sollerby" by locals) seemed to have tilted just a little more since my last visit.
Externally it may not be the prettiest church building, but it is my favourite.

Unheated and ancient, this place is surprisingly comfortable, even on a bitterly cold day.

The porch dates from the 1400's with later supports to try to keep it in place.  It  has the armorial shields of the Grantham family set into it.

Nearby Saltfleet used to be a bustling and prosperous port on the mouth of the Withern Eau, but when it silted up the population dwindled.

The bell tower has a definite tilt to the west, even though it is supported by extremely large Victorian buttresses.
Looking to the front of the church (south side)

Step through the porch and the massive church doors and this is what you will see.

A very plain and simple interior.

Looking to the rear of the church (south side)
Can you see that tiny staircase just beyond the font?  It leads to the leaning bell tower, the wobbly line which runs up the wall is a very large crack, it has been 'repaired' many times, but each time the tower slips a little more it opens up again.  Sometimes it is wide enough to insert your hand, should you be so daring.

This is the south chapel.  

The reredos  - the stone decoration on the altar wall - is quite rare and I am told that this is a fine medieval example.

There is a 'double' arcade of arches - the old and the "new" sit side by side, as though they couldn't quite wipe out all that history, or perhaps even back then they knew it needed extra support and kept them both.
The arches from the south chapel

The 11th century Norman arches(with scalloped detail)  butt up to the 14th century single arch.  I love quirky things like this.  Almost an architectural traffic-jam.

The painted wooden screening is later.

The arches viewed from the chancel, on the other side

Walls are out of line, the roof lines are a bit wonky the style is very simple,  incredibly beautiful.

It is possible to walk in and be amazed by the quirks, enjoy the architecture, or to simply soak up the atmosphere of a simple, well-loved, although redundant, country church.

I enjoy it for all of those reasons, and more.

A glimpse of the Chancel from the south chapel
The whole church is a patchwork quilt of styles dating from the early 1100's church with  many alterations and additions through the centuries.

People have long cared about this building, it has been well used, well loved.

 Quite unlike poor old Skidbrooke Church, just a couple of miles away, and reputedly the most haunted church in Britain, although similar in style.

This is the view from the far side, the main body of the church.

Can you see the mellow light in the chancel?

The ancient roof timbers were installed over 600 years ago.

While we are talking about roofing I had better show you the scariest part of the visit...when I look up and check to see if the tower has shifted again, or whether it is simply my fertile imagination playing tricks again.  This is the junction of the bell tower to the main body of the church...and yes, that is daylight showing through.

If you enlarge the photograph you will see how far the tower has slipped away from where the beams originally joined the wall.

This is the view towards the bell tower.

The wooden screening is 15th century.  

Beautiful windows.

Mellow light comes through the old panes of glass.

Many apologies for showing so many photographs, I feel rather like those people who invite you round for dinner and then subject you to viewing hundreds of their holiday snaps.

The main reason I love this old church is for the way it reaches out and enfolds me in the most wonderfully comforting embrace.  You may think this is fanciful, spooky, even, but that is okay.  I don't mind.

I would rather visit this church than any other - and I visit a lot of old church buildings.  It is an interest of mine.   All Saints' may have been declared redundant in 1973, but  it still retains the essence of goodness, and I am not talking about religion.

I always leave there feeling refreshed, tranquil, comforted...although concerned about the way it continues to slip and slide on the marshy ground.