May is drifting by lazily in a haze of sunshine and soil. My hands are blistered from wielding garden forks and walling hammers. Slowly, the veg patch takes shape.
Some evenings we walk around the lanes, and the last of the sunlight lighting up the cow parsley makes us feel like we're in a story.
The days are long, and the weeks feel timeless, with nowhere to go and nobody to see. We've not yet driven anywhere for exercise, and we have plenty of outside space of our own so no need to sunbathe elsewhere.
This strange new world is starting to take its toll in unexpected ways. I'm starting to worry about how I'll fit everything back in when life starts to turn back towards normality. My days are full now, and while of course it will be lovely to see people again, and be able to pop to a cafe, I will miss the long gardening hours.
Would the veg patch have progressed as much as it has this month if I'd been able to pop into town whenever I wanted, or meet up with friends, or idle away the mornings in a cafe?
I wouldn't have chosen this time (who would?) but I've tried to use it well. Not by taking up the bassoon, or learning to speak another language, but by slowing down. Not taking up new things, but spending more time doing the old things, the things I already enjoyed but often didn't leave time for. Nurturing seedlings. Long weekend mornings of reading. Writing letters. Eating tea in the garden.
It's looking like I won't be returning to work in my office until after Christmas. I can't say I'm sad about that. I like my job, and miss some of my colleagues, but I haven't stopped working, and often worked at home anyway, so I can easily live without my physical office space (which at any rate is just a desk in a large open plan room). I've not been in my office since 27th February anyway, so already it feels like a place that doesn't really exist any more.
My world has become small, in some ways at least. I'm grateful for not having to navigate city streets and busy parks right now, but I've seen so few faces since this began. I wonder how many faces we do see each day in normal times, just going about our normal business? Hundreds? Thousands?
Anyway, no new faces for me, not for a while. Peter of course, and the postman, and the farmer checking on his cows. An occasional neighbour on a ramble around the lanes. The woman who runs the village shop. Those will have to suffice for now. It's like going back in time (aside from a fortnightly supermarket trip, of course, although I'd happily do away with that too).
Anyway. It's easy to forget as the days roll by that there are still things to do. With what feels like endless tomorrows, it's easy to put things off. Today I'm back at work after a long weekend, and within five minutes the day won't feel endless, it will feel like the normal round of jumping between projects and trying to get things finished. But come five o clock I'll be back outside in the veg patch, the evening stretching out ahead, the sun (hopefully) still shining.
I've finally made a start on growing some veg.
Somehow I never quite get round to sowing seeds until the end of April, and that does feel quite late, but we're pretty exposed up here on the hillside so I tell myself I'm not too far behind.
For the last couple of years, I've been trying to use up some of the stash of seeds I've acquired rather than too many new. Last year I got sidetracked (by what? I can't even remember) and barely grew anything, but this year I've got several things on the go and am determined to make at least some of them work. Those above are rainbow chard and curly kale, and I've also sowed leeks, beetroot, and turnips.
These are my stash from the Heritage Seed Library membership my sister bought for my birthday. They're all in now except for the carrots. I've not grown carrots before and have in my head they're rather picky, so I'm going to sow them directly into large pots I think, rather than our pretty heavy soil.
I need to work on my recording system - these photographs are the only current record I have of which seeds are which, and if I start moving trays round or repotting I'll have no idea. I think I can sense a 'garden organisation' project coming on next winter...
Also in the greenhouse is the fig tree that was also part of my birthday present from my sister. I'm hoping I don't kill it. I've now fitted plastic replacements for the three glass panels that broke, so it's nice and warm in there. Fingers crossed.
Outside the greenhouse, I'm preparing the beds. The first year we were here I tried to grow food up in the corner of the meadow, and where the edible windbreak is now. Last year I made beds in the garden area (but then never really planted much in them). This year I'm making more of an effort.
I've laid out a square where the old beds were, and surrounded it with chicken wire. We'll have a gate on two of the corners (for easy access from both the house and garden seating area, and from the greenhouse and water butt), but these will be kept closed once the plants are in to keep out the chickens, and also hares, rabbits, and occasional stray sheep.
The fence is just chicken wire, but if necessary we can always attach wind barrier fabric to create a bit more shelter. I'm not planning to do that just yet, but we'll see.
I'm very much a fan of no dig gardening (not least because it involves me not having to dig), and ideally I would have created this area last autumn and mulched the whole lot, and now be looking at nice rich soil.
Sadly, I didn't, and I'm looking at a thick thatch of grass and dandelions. So we're taking the grass off and removing most of the roots, but not doing any kind of deep digging. You'd think the chickens would be a help at this stage, and they do a little bit of scratching, but mostly they just stand with their heads exactly where you want to put the fork, so the whole thing proceeds rather slowly when they're around.
Still, we are making some progress, with two beds cleared now, the fence finished (no gates yet), and stones put round part of the outside to block the gap between the fence and the ground.
I'll put stones round the edges of the beds too once we've cleared them (not for any good reason other than distinguishing them from the path, and because we have a lot of stones), and I'll top dress with some mulch of whatever kind I can find or make (compost, wood chippings, old hay etc).
It feels good to have a dedicated space to grow food, and I'm currently thinking of it a bit like a mini allotment out in the garden. I've got some flowers growing in various tubs that I'm going to plant in here too, and some herbs. I might try to grow sweet peas up one fence, and actual peas up another. I'm looking forward to having a defined growing space that I can (hopefully) keep in some kind of order, and I'm also hoping that keeping the chickens out, at least until the plants are bigger, will mean that things have a chance to grow without interference.
As always though, we'll see.
I can't quite believe I'm having to say this, but just three weeks after we lost Mildred, Maud has gone too.
Gentle, kind Maud. I never once saw her peck anyone, or anyone else peck her. It was like she was outside of the pecking order, and the others followed her lead because she was so sensible, not because they had to (although a swift peck from Mildred was often forthcoming if they didn't).
Maud never pestered for food, never pushed to the front, she understood there would always be enough. Our little flock gravitated around her, always heading back to wherever she was. She was the least treat-oriented chicken, eating a balanced, sensible diet at all times - although this did mean she could not be easily bribed, and between us we have spent hours trying to reason with her when she didn't want to go back into the run.
Like Mildred, she didn't like being picked up, and unlike the younger chickens, wouldn't usually jump on your knee in the hope of an apple core. But if you sat on the grass in the sunshine she'd often join you for an afternoon nap and a bit of a preen.
I have barely any pictures of her without Mildred. The two were inseparable after the stoat attack that killed our other two original chickens. We nursed them back to health, and while they eventually accepted the three new chickens, they spent most of their time together.
When Mildred was ill, Maud spent all her time sitting by her side, and looking back we wonder if she just didn't feel too good herself. She's always been slower than the others, more sedate, less likely to run at you from the other end of the garden. Whenever we brought Mildred into the house, Maud came too and the pair of them could nap in the living room for hours at a time towards the end, occasionally waking up for a bit of food.
Chickens are good at hiding when they're ill, and for a week or two after Mildred died we thought she was just sad at the loss of her old friend. Eventually though we took her to the vets, who confirmed our suspicions that she was ill herself. She didn't respond to steroids or antibiotics, and slowly got more and more sleepy as (we think) her liver failed.
On her last evening, after a day in the house with us, being plied with treats (most of which she ignored, but she did perk up for a bit of yogurt), we took her up to the run with the others. They went over to greet her, and she had a bit of a peck around with them, and then took herself off to her favourite spot in the hen house. When I went to close the door an hour later, she was still there, head under her wing (with one eye peeking out at me), the others surrounding her in a cosy feathery pile.
She didn't make it through the night, and I found her in the same place in the morning, head resting on the wall.
We buried her under the fruit trees near Mildred, Hermione and Luna, all four of our original chickens back together.
It's strange being down to three chickens. The hen house feels very empty, and I keep casting my eyes around looking for the rest. When we first got our new ladies, five seemed so many more than four, and so much harder to count, but three seems such a small number.
I think we'll get more when the British Hen Welfare Trust starts rehoming again, whenever that might be. Yes, we get upset when they go, and yes, it would be nice to go for an impromptu weekend (or even week!) away like the old days, without worrying about them. But the amount of fun we have getting to know their little beaky personalities and their favourite treats, knowing we've given them a chance to know a different life to the one they've had before, outweighs all that.
In the meantime, the three remaining chickens have been informed that they are not to get ill, as we just can't take any more chicken tragedies right now.
April has passed in a flurry of daffodils.
I love April. It's my birthday month, but it's not just that. April is when it warms up enough to spend time in the garden most days, to sit outside with a cup of tea with the chickens, and to start planting seeds.
I've planted seeds that I already had, some out of date. Rainbow chard, curly kale, leeks, turnips and beetroot so far, and my sister bought me membership to the Heritage Seed Library for my birthday so I now have several others to plant too - carrots, swedes, peppers, celeriac, radish, and something else that I now can't recall.
In other garden news, I've mowed the grass a couple of times - I'm trying to keep on top of it with the push mower this year, but it means getting out there a couple of times a week or it gets too long.
And finally I finished the compost bin.
While I had the wood preserver out, I re-coated the table and benches, and the most exposed parts of the chicken run.
The plum blossom is out (and so far still on the trees), and the apple blossom has started to emerge too.
Inside the house I've been cleaning.
And yesterday we acquired a dehydrator, so we're looking forward to a summer of preparing and preserving more food.
Of course, we lost Mildred chicken over the Easter weekend, and now it's looking like we'll lose her old pal Maud too, the last of our original chickens. We're devastated.
Mostly though, April has been taken up with walling. This field wall fell down over a year ago, and I finally got round to stripping out the fallen stone early this year. In April I started rebuilding, and while it feels never-ending, I have made good progress.
I'm planning to finish this short stretch before I go back to work on Monday, but there's still a gap of twice the size of this to do.
What's in store for May? I'm hoping this wall will be finished, and we should see the arrival of some new pregnant cows from the local dairy farm. I've bought a fence to keep the chickens out of the veg beds, so I need to put that up, and create the beds themselves. I hope there will be some plants ready to plant out in June.
March seemed to last forever, but April, for me at least, has flown by. Like last month, many of the things on this list are now impossible, but I'll leave them there as things to aim for when the world changes again (although I suspect some of them won't happen at all this year now).
Anyway, this is where we are with the list.
20 things mended (5/20)
I don't seem to be doing much mending at the minute, but I did sew a button on to a fleece wraparound scarf/hat, so that's one extra thing added this month.
19 letters written (6/19)
I was enjoying writing letters, but somehow April has whizzed past without me having written any at all. I've had replies from a couple of friends to the letters I wrote in March though, so responding to them, and maybe writing a few more, can be a nice task for April.
18 days without internet (2/18)
No more this month, but I'm definitely in need of one in May.
17 books read (25/17)
More good progress here, again mostly with audio books from the library, although there were one or two paper books as well.
16 household items or pieces of clothing made (13/16)
Progress here too. I made some beeswax candles of course, using the kit I found. And I made us a couple of masks to wear to the supermarket (not that I've been in a supermarket myself since all this started, but I was experimenting). We're not required to wear masks in public places in this country at the minute, but I've found this review of existing evidence, published in the British Medical Journal, convincing. There's an easier-to-read summary here.
The authors argue that, while home made masks aren't suitable for medical situations, and would be unlikely to prevent someone from catching the virus, they would restrict the flow from an infected person to others - my mask protects you, your mask protects me. They argue that
Masks are simple, cheap, and potentially effective. We believe that, worn both in the home (particularly by the person showing symptoms) and also outside the home in situations where meeting others is likely (for example, shopping, public transport), they could have a substantial impact on transmission with a relatively small impact on social and economic life.
Anyway, making a mask for wearing to the shops seemed like a small, practical thing to do. I used this pattern (tweaked a bit) after seeing it recommended on The Snail of Happiness blog. They were quite quick to make (although I used very thick elastic for one of them, and it was a nuisance to sew through), and Peter reports that his fits well and feels perfectly comfortable, for a short shopping trip at least. I might try adding a nose clip to his. They'll be useful after all this is over for dusty jobs like cleaning out the chicken run and DIY.
As well as masks, I made some more cleaning cloths from an old piece of stained tablecloth (but I won't count those as I've already counted cloths in this total), and I made two drawstring bags (using this 15 minute tutorial) to hang them on door of the temporary kitchen - one for clean cloths and one for used ones. Very excited about this - I'm hoping it'll make it much easier to find a new cloth when you need one.
And here we come to a big string of things that haven't been possible this month (or rather some of them have, but I haven't done them anyway).
15 meals with friends (5/15)
14 meals from home grown produce (0/14)
13 evening lectures (0/13)
12 donations to the foodbank (2/12)
I donated what I would have spent on commuting in March to the local foodbank at the start of April, and I'll likely do the same with April's commuting costs. As this was a reasonably hefty amount, I've done it through their online appeal rather than trawling round the shops to spend it.
And some more things I've not done.
11 solo days out for me (0/11)
10 loaves of bread made (0/10)
9 bike rides (0/9)
8 organised runs (2/8)
7 new places visited (1/7)
6 attempts at cheese making (0/6)
5 'No Quibble' weekends away (0/5)
4 pairs of socks made (0/4)
3 days volunteering (0/3)
2 LAND centres visited (0/2)
1 holiday (0/1)
Oh dear! Still, some of things I could do, so I might turn my attention towards those in the next few weeks. Letter writing, making bread and cheese, knitting socks, maybe even a bike ride or two.
I wonder what May will bring?
I was forty yesterday, and I confess that in all that time my baking skills haven't improved much.
Or perhaps it's my decorating skills that aren't quite up to scratch - the cake itself (a whole orange cake I spotted on the Down to Earth blog) was extremely tasty. Basically you whizz a whole orange in the blender and add it to a sponge mix for a deliciously orangey, slightly squishy cake.
It doesn't really need icing - the muffin-sized versions I made the night before were fine on their own - but a combination of a silicone loaf tin with no structural integrity and our tiny and slightly inadequate temporary oven led to a cake that definitely needed covering up with something.
It might not win any competitions, but it went down very well with a nice cup of tea.
Speaking of the Down to Earth blog, you might notice Rhonda's Down to Earth book in the background in that picture. This was my birthday present to myself, and I've spent the last couple of days happily flicking through it and wishing I was retired so I could spend all of my days making cakes and sewing and pottering in the garden.
Today it's been raining, so I've ignored the dry stone wall that has been taking up quite a lot of my energy for days, and stayed inside. I had a vague feeling of time just drifting away, without me actually achieving anything, so in the spirit of following the book's advice, I decided to tackle a household job I'd been putting off for a while - sorting out the utility room.
This is the entrance to our home, and acquires the usual household detritus that is either on its way in or out of the house. Wellies, recycling, dishes that have been used for chicken treats, rubbish bags, tools, all congregate here, and if we don't keep on top of it, getting into the house becomes a perilous navigational exercise. Yesterday Peter put all the shoes away and took the rubbish bags outside, and today I've spent a happy few hours washing dishes, cleaning walls, decanting slightly damp powdered cleaning stuff (borax substitute, laundry bleach) into airtight containers, and giving the place a good hoover. It felt good.
In the course of all this sorting, I discovered a bag of soap I'd made - I never got the texture right, and after goodness knows how long sitting in a bag under the sink, it feels slightly oily. I've left it on the newly cleared side to dry out, and if it doesn't work as hand soap, I'll grate it to mix with the washing powder.
I also discovered this candle-making kit that I had as a present some years ago and which got lost in the house move. Again I made use of my newly cleared surface to play with the beeswax.
I like this picture on the box. It looks achievable - nothing fancy, nothing requiring endless patience, just a bit of rolling and cutting. I can't say mine look exactly like the pictures, but they're not far off.
The instructions said the beeswax sheets would be pliable at room temperature but I had to hold them up against the radiator for several minutes to get them to bend without snapping - not sure what that says about the temperature of my house...
Anyway, I didn't come in here to waffle on about all that, I came in to waffle on about turning forty, but as I'm not sure how I feel about that, perhaps it's best that I don't. Tis only a number, after all - and after hearing of the death of a friend's daughter this week I'm grateful I've lived to see it.
I will be sitting down to make some plans for the next decade soon though...
The weather has been lovely these past few weeks, and I've been taking every opportunity to wash things so I can hang them on the line. In our old house I always lamented the lack of a washing line, and now I have one (with an excellent view) I use it at every opportunity.
I bought this pack of six cotton handkerchiefs in a charity shop, probably well over a year ago. I couldn't bring myself to use them as hankies though, and so they've sat on a shelf waiting for me to decide what to do with them.
Now that I'm without a commute and many of the activities that filled my time before, I'm finding myself turning back towards making and mending and pottering - things I've always done, but that have been slowly crowded out while I've been running around. I've missed them.
I decided I'd use these hankies to cover the cushions on the sofa in my study. The sofa is actually a sofa bed that we got from Freegle when we moved here, and it's a rather dull shade of reddish-pink. When I decorated my study last year, I found a white cover in a charity shop, and together with the patchwork blanket my auntie made, it looks rather pretty.
The cushions, though, remained dull and red, and it was about time I covered them up. But what to do? Stripes, or squares? Should I alternate with the plain hankies, or only use the patterns?
The answer came when I was about to go on to yet another video call for work, and on a whim draped two of the hankies over the cushions, which were visible in the background. I liked it so much that I decided to keep things really simple.
The hankies were the perfect size, and I literally just sewed one plain and one patterned together on three sides, and left the bottom open.
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best option.
I hate wasting food, but sometimes things get ahead of me and I find myself with a wrinkly cabbage or an onion going soft. Usually, if it's too far gone for soup, the compost heap benefits, but this time faced with several dried out tangerines (that weren't very nice to start with), I thought I'd have a go at orange curd (like lemon curd, but with oranges).
I confess I don't know now which recipe I followed, and in any case, as usual, I didn't follow it very closely (the batteries had run out in the kitchen scales, and I never was much good at following instructions in relation to food).
The general gist is that you melt butter (or in this case margerine, as that's what we had), sugar, orange juice and zest until it's all combined, then stir in several whisked eggs (I've seen a few recipes just calling for yolks, but this one had whole eggs).
You're meant to stir it until it goes thick, like custard, but I kept stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and it never really got much thicker, and eventually I got bored and put it in jars anyway, figuring I'd deal with it the next day.
After a while it started to set at the top, which looked hopeful (if you ignored the liquid underneath), so it went into the fridge overnight.
The next morning it was still the same, so I separated the set part into a tea cup, thought for a minute about trying to make the rest set, and decided instead to just leave it as a rich orangey sauce to pour over ice cream, rice pudding or whatever (or sneak the odd spoonful out of the jar).
We ate the curd itself on some home made scones.
And a couple of days later I mixed the rest of the sauce in with some cake batter and made slightly orangey fairy cakes.
So I think I'd follow the recipe a bit better next time, but an experiment that ends with rice pudding, scones and fairy cakes can't be all bad, right?
I've not done anything crafty for a while, so when we decided to hold a virtual Easter egg hunt for my nephews, I took the opportunity for a bit of crafty messing around.
Have you blown eggs before? I don't think I have, and it was harder than I thought. Still, eventually they were all done, and an omelette and a sponge cake made with the leftovers, and a skewered them all ready for decorating.
How to decorate though? I stumbled across a tutorial for marbling using nail varnish - I've not linked to it because I can't find the actual one I used, and there are plenty of them out there. First, assemble your nail varnish (is it just me who attracts old pots of nail varnish in colours I swear I never bought).
Next, take over the entire tiny temporary kitchen with your paraphernalia.
The process itself is quite simple. Tray of cold water, and nail varnish. You have to move quickly - the nail varnish sets within a couple of seconds. Drop it onto the water, quickly swirl, then dunk your egg.
I think in the tutorial I saw, only the front half of the egg was dipped - I tried to coat the whole thing, which was far more difficult.
The first couple I did weren't great. The nail varnish was setting too quickly, and the colours were too pale to show up properly on a brown egg.
Once I got the hang of it though, and found some more vibrant colours, things improved. Metallic seemed to work well, but not glittery - the glitter made it too heavy on the water and it just sank.
I was pretty pleased with the final results, although my hands were a mess.
Six small eggs is not quite enough for an egg hunt, but I'd had my fill of marbling, so decided to try something a bit more straightforward, and paint some cardboard egg shapes. I found a tray of old children's paints in a drawer (why do I have those?) and set myself up in the garden. After a ropey start (I'm no artist) I remembered Peter bought me a book about how to paint roses and castles, as in traditional narrowboat art.
It's actually more straightforward than it looks, although I struggled to get the required swoops and swirls with my dried up paints and cheap brushes.
I fared a bit better with my castles.
Overall I was pretty pleased with my efforts after my initial uninspired start.
Our virtual egg hunt was fun, and later in the afternoon we found ourselves on a real egg hunt - our ladies have found a new, exciting laying spot. Can I take you to the back of the lean-to, where the hay bales have all fallen in an undignified heap?
Yes, it seems the ladies have been scaling the dizzy heights of that bale, and laying in a little depression in the top.
It's probably a pretty good vantage point up there (although there are better views than the inside of this outbuilding, which is full of furniture and garden tools). Finding an egg round here is pretty impossible though - the only way we manage it is by first following the clucking chicken...
A couple of weeks ago Mildred started looking a little unwell. Nothing specific, just slower, less boisterous. Her comb shrank, and started looking purple and dry. We spoke to the vet on the phone and they confirmed what I feared - that it was some kind of heart condition, impossible to treat in a chicken, and that she was likely living her last few days.
Mildred and her old pal Maud started coming inside for afternoon naps. They were the final two of our original chickens, the other two, Hermione and Luna, having been killed by a stoat over a year ago.
Mildred was still pottering round with the others, but she was definitely getting slower. On Monday, she looked very stiff and old, and we took her to the vets to check that our diagnosis was right, and that there really was nothing we could do for her. Sadly there wasn't, so I spent the week out in the sunshine on the swing seat with her snoozing nearby, and the others pottering around too.
On Thursday morning she didn't come out of the hen house, although she seemed ok when we carried her to her usual spot by my chair, and later got up and walked over for a drink. By the evening though she looked very tired, and even refused a worm that Peter had dug up for her (we did manage to tempt her with a tiny bit of sponge cake though).
On Friday morning she could barely lift her head, and we knew it was time. While we were waiting for the vet to call back, she lay in the sunshine, and Maud stood with her, bowing her head and making soft clucking noises.
The vet was very kind (and didn't laugh at me for crying over a chicken). Of course we couldn't go into the consulting room given the current situation, but Mildred was never one for a cuddle anyway, and by that point I don't think she knew where she was anyway.
We buried her under the fruit trees where we buried Herminone and Luna, in what has become affectionately known as the Memorial Windbreak.
Anyway, this is all very sad, and I came in here to write something cheerful about Mildred's life, not just to be miserable about her death (which, as chicken deaths go, wasn't a bad one).
Mildred came to us on 2nd September 2018, along with Maud, Hermione and Luna, all named after witches in children's books (Harry Potter, and The Worst Witch). We got them from the British Hen Welfare Trust, who rehome chickens from commercial egg farms when they have outlived their 'usefulness'.
They were our first chickens, and we were quite daunted. Mildred wasn't daunted at all - she strode around the place pecking the others, head held high despite her lack of feathers.
We always suspected that Maud was in charge, but that Mildred did all the on-the-ground work of crowd control. We never saw Maud peck anyone, but also nobody ever pecked Maud, not even Mildred. Mildred was definitely second in command though, and was always willing to dole out a swift peck for a minor infraction.
She mellowed a bit after those first few weeks, but never lost her haughty look.
When a stoat sneaked into the hen house and killed Hemione and Luna, Mildred and Maud were traumatised, and came to live in our house for three weeks while we nursed them back to health and fortified their run. I feel like we bonded with them a bit more then, as we gradually encouraged them to eat, and to get back outside.
I'm not sure they were too impressed when we brought home our three new chickens a few weeks later, but gradually they settled down and became a happy little flock (with Mildred still doling out the occasional much-needed peck, of course).
Mildred was a dignified chicken, no silly flapping or ungainly jumping like the younger ones, and I confess I did laugh a little bit when she once jumped into the leaf collection and couldn't get back out (I didn't laugh much though, as she gave me a very stern look).
Before she came to us, Mildred didn't live in a cage like our younger chickens, she was a barn hen. Barn eggs apparently make up only about 1% of the total of eggs consumed in the UK - caged eggs provide cheaper eggs of course, and it seems that people concerned about welfare will go for free range. Here are a few pictures of hens in a barn system (from an industry publication, so this isn't 'worst case scenario'). The hens do have places to perch and lay, but they never have access to the outside, and may be living with 10,000 other hens.
Mildred had longer with us than she had in the barn, and for that I'll always be thankful.
Strut on, beaky pal.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.