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.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bennie Finds a Bed

Beautiful Bennie has a very comfortable bed, but she rarely sleeps in it.   She drifts around the house finding a cosy nook here, a comfortable corner there.   She is very adaptable.  I think part of it is so that livewire Sparky can't find her.

Yesterday she decided that my sewing project would make a great bed.

I knew you wouldn't mind ...

George is busy redecorating the Boot Room, everything is topsy turvy...  of course Bennie found somewhere to oversee the operation.

Last night I searched high and low for her ... eventually tracked her down to the 'smallest room in the house', where everything from the Boot Room has been plonked while we decorate.

Her smile says it all.

In order to get into this room she has learnt to open the latch door, she stands on a Lloyd Loom linen basket which is nearby, reaches over and clicks the latch open.    When she does this in the dark of an evening, when all is quiet it can get a little scary hearing the latch click out there - when you just know there is no-one there.  

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Old Butcher's Shop & a Hotch Potch of Stiles

This enormous, split ash tree is around 150 years old.   The ash tree was known as the healing tree, and folk lore used to have it that if a naked child was passed through a split trunk of an ash tree, in a ritual, they would be healed of rickets or a broken limb.

In Anglo-Saxon times ash wood was used for making spears and shield handles.   More recent use is for furniture, walking sticks, sports equipment and aircraft wings on the De Havilland Mosquito which flew in WWII.
I like the way this mighty tree completely dwarfs everything around it, making Arnold, the fencing and the beehives look tiny.  Quite amazing to think of the things which have come and gone while this tree has been standing there.
The brick wall which you can see on the left side of the first photograph belong to these buildings.  They were once an important part of the village, for this was where the village butcher would ply his trade.   This was the preparation area - live animals came in, were dispatched and prepared for sale in the shop next door.

John, one of our wonderful village elders, who lives in the house across the way, gave me a tour of it one day.   When he and Hazel bought the place, way back in the '70's I believe it still had the hooks, hoists and pulley systems, as well as the copper for boiling, hams, etc.

I am vegetarian, but even so, because it was an important bit of village life and history, I still find it fascinating.

These buildings are gradually subsiding bricks are snapping, timbers slipping and I cannot imagine them standing for many more years, I felt it was important to record their existence, their history.
My feet led me on through the meadow and beyond the fish ponds, almost to Thistle Alley, where I encountered this collection of old posts and wire...a disused stile.  Nature is doing her best to reclaim it.

Nettles and elder, brambles and hawthorn are all doing their best to beautify it.

Can anything make barbed wire beautiful?

Here is another kind of a stile - a well-maintained, but infrequently used one,   in a quiet glade.

The wood has turned green because of all the rain we had been enduring.

Climb up over the stile and you are rewarded with a beautiful sight....
A  tranquil place, no traffic, just peace and beauty.

I am happy to be linking in with Jan n'Jer's Friday Fences.
Lots of links to interesting fences can be found on their blog.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tomatoes from Texas!

Way back in February my very dear friend Meggie, who writes  the  beautiful Meggie on the Prairie blog,  sent me a pack of tomato seeds.  

A few weeks earlier she had held a Garden Seed Giveaway and I was fortunate to be among those drawn to receive my own choice of a pack of seeds.    

After much deliberation and perusal of the seed catalogue, I  requested some Tomato Carbon seeds, which are described as having a wonderful flavour.

Despite the dreadful growing conditions this year, they have shown true Texan spirit and have survived, and done their best in adverse conditions.

Some were grown in the conservatory, others in the greenhouse.

The yield was low, but the flavour was wonderful.

They are sweet and delicious...and did I mention that they are almost as big as Texas?

I thought it would be interesting to compare them alongside cherry and plum tomatoes - so you can get an idea of the scale.

We have saved some seeds, ready to try again next year.  We know the flavour is great, now we need to increase the yield...

Watch this space.

We had a surprise visitor tonight ... he came down to the patio doors in the dark of the early evening, then scuttled off when the light was put on.
A 'teenage' hedgehog.    We made this little chap welcome by leaving him in peace to eat a small dish of cat food.    Here's hoping he returns frequently and eats lots of slugs.     We have two hedgehog houses in the garden, I wonder whether he has taken up residence in one of them.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

I Know How to Have a Good Time + An Apology

Image borrowed - I believe this is Scotland's first female
chimney sweep.
We have three chimney's on our house, one at either end and a flue in the middle.  This week was designated the week we would tackle the chimney-sweeping.   Eeek!  Run for the hills, it is a filthy job.  

However, some things have to be faced, and this is one of them.  We don't want to have to call out the wonderful volunteers of Alford Fire Brigade again, handsome though they may be...
The small one in the middle belongs to the Rayburn
So, the chimneys have been swept and prepared for when we begin lighting the fires on those cooler days of autumn.
The rooms have to be dust sheeted, floors covered, etc.  It is a time consuming and tedious process.  Even with these precautions I still have to wash down surfaces, clean away soot and dust.   All I can say it is wonderful when it is over.   For a few minutes it actually feels as though I live in a clean and tidy house.

Apologies to you all, time has been short this week...this month.   I have not managed to keep up with my reading, or commenting.   Once we get through the heavy work schedule of harvest and into October I hope things will settle down again.
One of the many jobs I did today was to make a more than 80 mile round trip to do shopping for my elderly aunt.   She asked whether I thought Harry would like this!   It is a beautiful hobby horse.   Don't you think he looks quite a bit like Arnold?  (see side panel photographs)     

If Harry says no, then I know a little girl who would really like it when she is older!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bread, After the Village Show

Until recently the results of my bread-making efforts were very hit and miss.  Luckily,  no matter what the quality of the finished bread, the house always smelled wonderful while it was baking.
I clung to the traditional method of baking bread, including the ten minute kneading session, despite my friend Dom's best efforts to persuade me otherwise.     When I came third in the bread category of the village show,  while Dom of Belleau Kitchen came first, I knew something must be done.
I decided to give this new-fangled low-knead method a go.   It is very different and it does seem strange with a sloppier mix to begin with, but oh the sheer sensual pleasure of the elastic dough as the magic begins to work and you end up with a silky smooth dough for very little effort.
I follow the recipes in Dan Lepard's book 'Short and Sweet'.   I'm fully committed to this method now ...with all the zeal of the newly converted.
I enjoy baking bread so much that I could quite happily bake it every day.  Big loaves, small loaves, white bread, seeded bread, soya and linseed, farmhouse...I am working through the recipes and building up my repertoire...the waistlines are building up too.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ducks, Limericks & a Rattlesnake named Katie

Some of you may recall how my brain was completely taken over by the need to write  limericks about ducks - last year.   It was all Knatolee's fault.   She began a World Wide Duck Limerick ran for exaggeration, but it felt like years.   I must have written scores of limericks.

It got so that my brain made a limerick of everything I did, even at the most inappropriate and serious times my brain would suddenly come up with a limerick!
Time passed and I forgot all about the competition, lost my ability to write a limerick.  (Thank goodness!) Back to normal.   Then a while back I received the wonderful news that I had won the competition and a prize would be winging its way to me!

The other day I found a package awaiting me and this is what was inside - my prizes from Knatolee!

A beautiful hardback book, delightfully illustrated by Knatolee.  Young Harry and I have read it twice already.   It is set to become a firm favourite.   Only one problem, Harry is not at all happy that we don't have rattlesnakes in Owl Wood.

There was also a lovely selection of handmade cards by Knatolee - featuring her ducklings and hens.  All wonderful stuff.

Thank you Knatolee.   It was fun and your book is stunning!

Check out her wonderful blog here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Folk Art and Craft Work

Country churches fascinate me, the architecture,  history,  atmosphere, the churchyard...
I look up at the arches and the ceilings, the windows and the walls, but until now I have omitted to look at the kneelers.

The needlework is normally done by women of the  parish.    Sometimes they use designs of standard religious symbols, often purchased as a kneeler kit; but I think that the most interesting ones are those which show community history, houses, farming scenes, etc.

Often the reverse side has a little note saying who made it - and whether it was done in memory of someone, or for a particular occasion such as the millenium celebrations.

I wish I had turned over the kneeler which has the dog design, there must be a good story of love and devotion behind that one!

I wonder what  is the story behind the gigantic tree with the little parson sitting on the bough?  No doubt it is something highly symbolic and obvious.  

This particular church is in Bag Enderby, one of the churches which Alfred Lord Tennyson would have frequented - his father was the vicar here.

The tiny hamlet also has the remains of an old tree, which is said to be where John Wesley preached..

I must learn to look down as well as up - and I must start checking the reverse side of the kneelers for those interesting little notes.  Those clever needlewomen use cross-stitch, tapestry, long stitch and no doubt many others, to work their designs  - they really are stitched with love - they are beautiful, as well as useful.

In the early church people normally stood to pray.  The habit of kneeling for prayer began to spread in the 12th century - cold stone against knees, they must have been hardier souls in those days.

A 1516 definition of 'hassocks' (church kneelers) is 'especially in church to kneel on'.   It is thought that until the end of the 19th century people provided their own kneelers.

I have read that the kneeler of today was 'born' in the 1930's in Winchester Cathedral with Salisbury following soon after.   The trend spread and no doubt well-used churches have gone through quite a few since then.

The ones I have shown today are those of two very small, country churches,  the one in Bag Enderby and the other in Somersby, birthplace of Alfred Tennyson.    They are both set deep in rural Lincolnshire, so naturally nature, farming and country buildings feature heavily.     Now that my eyes have been opened to their importance I shall pay them more heed in future.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dragons and Fairies in the Garden

We were very late going to bed last night...we made a lot of elderberry rob.

We had foolishly promised Harry that we would take him to visit some three week old 8am he was at the back door, washed, dressed, ready.   We were bleary eyed and sleepy.   However, a promise is a promise.   We leapt into action and whisked him away to see these little beauties and their cousins.
Click to enlarge any photograph.
Afterwards we went out looking for more elderberries - an unsuccessful hunt this time.   So, we took Toby for a walk.   Harry was soon fizzing with excitement again because Farmer T's son brought the combine harvester into 'our' barley field and was soon stirring up a dust storm as he took his first cut of the field.
The combine harvester as it passes the polytunnel.
Harry was delighted to see it close-up.

Alas, for Harry, all too soon his mama was calling for him to get ready to attend a christening party.

I didn't get to see the washed, brushed and changed Harry, but Davina did bring Francesca over just before they left.

 I love the deep, rich colours, the textures of the stubble and the un-harvested barley.
'Our' barley field after the first few sweep of the combine harvester.

The sun has been beating down on the garden, summer condensed into just a few days of heat and sunshine - as so often happens when the schools go back after the long summer holiday.

The garden has been filled with beautiful glints of silver and bronze as numerous dragonflies dart hither and thither around the place.

This is the bronze beauty.
For some reason they seem very interested in some forgotten bean canes, every time I look there is a row of them, each one perched on the top of an old cane.
This one looks as though it would be happy to gossip
all day long.

This one makes me smile, it has such a comic face.

There is one bronze beauty who was very camera shy, although I did managed a couple of quick photographs of it.

A little fairy (with a back-pack).
I know some people will find them quite ugly, but they fascinate me.

I love those silvery, delicate wings.

I think they sometimes look like tiny fairies, as they flit about....oh dear, I have been out too long in that hot sun, haven't I?

I'll go and lie down with a cold flannel on my head.

Friday, 7 September 2012

A Happy Family for Friday's Fences

I have been meaning to photograph this wonderful family for weeks.   I got round to it a few days ago.

Don't they look wonderful.    The huge, brown, bull with his wives and offspring.   It is so good to see them living a happy and relatively natural life together, for now.

Of course for the purposes of Friday's Fences, it is the fence which I am presenting...

These are not artistic photographs - they are my usual snapshots, taken while out walking my dear old dog Toby.

This is taken from the other side of the field as we walked through the farmyard.

Electric fencing on the road side, simple metal fencing and barbed wire on the other side.  So much power contained within.

This was taken from many fields away, using as much zoom as possible - there are quite a number of fences between us, as well as a river.

The cute little building is a dovecote, it dates from the sixteenth century and features in quite a number of my posts.

One such post is here.

I am grateful to Jan and Jer for hosting Friday's Fences and for giving me the excuse to take yet more photographs of interesting fences.  If you click on their link you will find lots of great fence photographs.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Elder Rob

We may try to fool ourselves, but nature knows.  Autumn is almost here - just look at all the wonderful hips and berries which are glowing red and luscious in the hedgerows.   It is time to pick up our baskets and do a little harvesting.

These huge sloes are ripe and ready for the picking, think sloe gin, sloe brandy, or add a few sloes to a fruit pie.

Around our area it is always a race to pick the hedgerow bounty before the farmers cut the hedges back and all is lost.

Too soon and the berries are not ripe, too late no berries to pick!
So, I have to get out in the lanes,  check the field hedges, walk through meadows and keep my eyes peeled looking for these wonderful jewel-like gifts.   It is the season to get busy gathering and preserving, making jellies, jams and chutneys ready for the dark, cold days of winter.  By the time I have finished the pantry shelves will be lined with pots and jars of all shapes containing preserves, pickles and cordials.

It is the most exciting season of the year.

I love the fact that preserving has changed so little over the years, traditional methods are still in use today. This is when my really old recipe books come into their own...although in this case I would advise using the modern method, unless you have a supply of bladders.

Today I thought I would share an eighteenth century recipe, for Elder Rob; you will need lots of elderberries and sugar, cloves or ginger are optional.    This particular cordial is very useful for helping to fend off influenza and can help fight colds.   There is some very good science behind it, regrettably I have lost the original link - although I will add it when I find it again!

Elder Rob

Gather your elderberries full ripe, pick them clean from the stalks, put them in large stew-jars and tie paper over them.  Let them stand two hours in a moderate oven.  Then put them in a thin, coarse, cloth and squeeze out all the juice you can get.

Put eight quarts into a preserving pan, set it over a slow fire, let it boil till it be reduced to one quart.  When it is near done, keep stirring it, to prevent it burning.  Then put it into pots, let it stand two or three days in the sun; then dip a paper, the size of your pot, in sweet oil, lay it on, tie it down with a bladder, and keep it in a very dry place.  Black Currant Rob is made the same way.

These are excellent diluted with water for use in feverish colds.

Modern version: (no bladders required)

Give the elderberries a brief wash to remove insects and dust, strip the berries from the stalks, using a fork, then weigh the berries.

For each 1lb of elderberries add 12oz of brown sugar,  add a few cloves, or fresh ginger if you wish,  bring them to the boil and pass through a sieve to get all the juice out.

Cool,  and then pour into sterilised bottles.  Store in a cool, dark place.  Dilute a little in hot water.  

Old wisdom, in a soothing drink.