We've had some glorious weather round here lately. I stopped on the way to work the other day to take this picture, which I've been meaning to do for months but the conditions have never been quite right (and after all that I snapped in a rush and got the phone wire too - oh well!)
I've been unexpectedly busy at work lately, which has taken up a lot of head space. And the garden is growing, my greenhouse is overflowing with plants that are too big for their pots, and I have slight palpitations every time I look at a dry stone wall as they all seem to be falling down in front of my eyes.
Still, we are here, and things are peaceful aside from the chaffinch that calls outside the window for sixteen hours a day.
And I now have a phone which will take photographs, and will also supposedly let me write blog posts, although this is the third time I've typed this now and it's still not let me post. So while I was going to say that will encourage me to post more often, we'll have to see whether that happens.
In the meantime, here's Bessie flouting the 'no chickens on the furniture' rule.
I heard a bleating noise the other week, and wandered outside to find these woolly menaces hanging around on the drive.
They'd obviously found their way over a bit of fallen down wall, so once they'd returned to their own field, we patched up the wall and figured that was the end of it.
A few days later, we heard bleating again.
Fourteen sheep this time, in the front garden, munching on the flowers.
Three sheep in a field is cute. Fourteen sheep in your front garden is not.
Have you ever tried to make sheep do something specific? I hadn't, and I can tell you it's not as easy as those sheepdogs make it look.
There wasn't much point fixing the wall again until the sheep were back on their own side of it, but that meant that over several days more found their way in, until we had almost thirty happily grazing their way through our fields.
I quite like sheep. In fact, we both prefer them to cows, and I don't in principle have an issue with sharing our grass with a few hungry sheep. However, we have an agreement with the local dairy farmer to use our fields for his pregnant cows, who seemed rather bemused by the sudden addition of a flock of sheep.
The advantage of the cows is that they come with a responsible farmer in tow. He checks them daily, and if we notice something wrong, we can ring, and he will check again.
With the sheep it's different. Ringing the farmer elicited no response (not even when we found one ill just over the wall into his field), and I eventually had to find out where he lived and go round. Of course, by the time they made it over here, the sheep had hopped back into their own field (after over a week in ours), ruining the wall in the process.
So now we have several sections of wall to repair, and that's still not the issue solved, as I've watched several just jump clean over the wall without even touching it.
Clearly the grass is actually greener on this side of the wall.
Doesn't time fly in the garden at this time of year?
May started with a bit of harvesting. I planted this rainbow chard out really late last year (around October I think) and didn't hold out much hope, but here it is, and still going strong. There are a few leeks out there too that need bringing in soon.
The wild flowers are starting to appear, and some not-so-wild ones too.
I've made good progress spreading manure on my raised beds.
The seeds in the greenhouse are looking healthy, although none of them are ready to plant out yet. We're 1300ft above sea level here, and quite exposed and windy, so I'm keeping them inside for a while yet.
And of course the grass is growing in earnest now, so I'm out several mornings a week with the scythe trying to keep on top of it. It's best to scythe first thing in the morning because the moisture content of the grass is higher, so it's easier to cut, and also because it means I can leave the chickens safely shut in their run til I've finished.
They object rather vocally, but given their tendency to stand under my feet and interfere with whatever garden implement I'm using, I'm not risking them being out at the same time as the scythe. They cause enough trouble when I'm raking the grass cuttings up.
I'm hoping June will fill the water butts, and see at least some of the seedlings planted outside. And maybe we'll have our first evening meal in the garden, who knows?
I've been dashing about rather more than usual these last few weeks.
First up was a work trip to Glasgow, where I met up with two internet pals (one for the first time) and ate far too much cake.
Being in the hustle and bustle of a city was a nice change, although I didn't once regret moving to the middle of nowhere when someone was busking in the street outside the hotel at midnight.
I got back from Glasgow at midnight, and at nine the next morning I was on a train to Hebden Bridge, a cheery little village in West Yorkshire, for a gathering of people doing the permaculture diploma.
I then had a few days at home before jetting off to Copenhagen for another work event. I promise my working life doesn't usually involve this much travel...
I went to Copenhagen with a cheery colleague, and so we were able to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel. Gosh it was lovely, and if I ever go on another trip like that I'd make every effort to do the same again.
We did get a little bit of time to wander around the city too, which was nice.
Sadly I was full of cold, and felt rotten the whole time we were there. And have you ever flown with a cold? I hadn't (I think this is only my fifth or sixth time flying ever), and so I had no idea of the unpleasantness of my sinuses being messed with by the air pressure on the plane. Three weeks later and my face is starting to feel normal again. Not an experience I'd like to repeat.
Still, I'm home now, and don't have any plans to go anywhere else major for a while (although there will be one or two local jaunts of course). Mostly I'm just wandering the local footpaths, hanging out with the chickens, and doing a spot of light decorating. Who needs to go far with a view like this out of the back garden?
Chickens very much love the sunshine, and given half the chance will lay about and sunbathe. They mostly seem to do this when we're nearby and, presumably, give them a feeling of safety. They lie down and spread out a wing and a leg, and look for all the world like they're dead. It's quite alarming.
We're spending quite a bit of time sitting outside with them now the nicer weather is here, and they quite often doze off while we're there. It's especially sweet in the evening, when we shut them in their run and often take a cup of tea and sit there ourselves for a while. They potter about at first but slowly settle down and often a couple will shut their eyes and have a rest.
Most of the time they're not resting though. Most of the time they're wandering about looking for treats, or lying in wait outside the back door, or marauding around whatever outdoor project we're trying to do, making a nuisance of themselves.
I wouldn't be without them now though. They give an air of cheerfulness to the place, and I do so love to see them pottering round the garden. I can hear one now squarking outside the front door, hoping to be let in to find a stray apple core (not that there are ever stray apple cores lying around our living room, oh no).
Chicken keeping is much more fun in the summer though. They can spend more time outside, and we can spend more time outside with them. Much better all round.
Poor, long-neglected blog. But we won't dwell on that, instead we'll have a little poke around what's been happening in the garden over the last couple of months.
March started with frogspawn - not technically in the 'garden' as we don't have a pond (yet), but just outside the garden in a field. However I'm afraid it came to a not-too-happy end, as the sunshine was swiftly followed by frost, and then snow.
Since then though, the garden has been progressing nicely. In mid-April it started to feel like spring and arrived, and I got to work on the raised beds. We found a giant pile of old printer paper in the loft, slightly damp around the edges, and put it to work keeping the weeds down.
Our lovely neighbouring farmer brought us a pile of cow manure, so that got dumped on top, and then the chickens had a lovely time mixing it all around.
The plum blossom came out, and then was blown away again a few days later so I'm not sure how that will work out.
I moved the raspberries that I stupidly planted in the top of a field last year, and I finally got round to planting out the apple tree that I grafted about ten years ago, and that has been sitting in a pot ever since.
Poor Mildred managed to get herself into the leaf mould pile and then couldn't get out - I shouldn't laugh but there was no harm done and it was rather amusing. She wasn't impressed.
A friend helped me put up the plastic greenhouse (it blew down in October and I'd just thrown it into a shed). I planted a load of seeds, and then went away for a week with work. Sadly, the wind picked up and the whole thing blew down again.
I liked that little greenhouse, and it was great while we were waiting to acquire a more permanent solution, but they really are more suited to sheltered urban gardens than windy hilltops. I've now put the shelves from that up inside the glass greenhouse (which had no shelves), and we'll repurpose the plastic (which is now quite ripped) for something else.
So the seeds are all planted (again), the beds are prepared, the apple is now in blossom too, I've planted a load of bedding plants, and the compost bin still hasn't been fixed. Getting there... (slowly).
I've been working at home a lot since Christmas, and I'm spending a lot of time sitting down.
When we lived in the city, working at home wasn't a problem - it wasn't every day, and there were plenty of other places to walk to. Here, we are just a little bit too far away to walk to anywhere, and so if I want some exercise, I have to consciously go for a walk.
This isn't really a problem, of course - it's just that going for a walk feels like it requires more planning than just nipping to the shops. Walking boots for a start, and maybe even a rucksack and a map.
Well, thinking like that was getting me nowhere. Instead, I abandoned the rucksack, and the map, and all thoughts of 'hiking' or 'trekking', and decided to keep things a little more simple (that's usually a good plan in life, I find).
Each morning I get up, dress quickly, make a cup of tea in my travel mug, pull on my wellies, let the chickens out - and keep going up the drive.
It's nice and simple. I'm already out of the house, I already have tea (with a lid), and there's no planning required. I have to let the chickens out reasonably early, so my walks usually start before 8am (they were starting closer to 7am until the clocks changed).
It's lovely and peaceful out there at that time in the morning, whatever the weather (and there has been quite a variation in weather so far this year).
Of course it's been more pleasant since the better weather arrived (I hope I'm not speaking too soon - the wind and rain are howling through the windows this evening).
I have a few little loops of a mile or so round the lanes and footpaths. I refuse to go much further without eating breakfast. A mile is enough time to wake up a bit, finish my tea, and arrive back home refreshed and alert, ready to start work.
Now the lighter nights are here, I'm hoping to incorporate an evening walk too as a nice way of ending the working day and getting a bit of fresh air before making tea.
Might have to fix my wellies first though - one of them appears to have sprung an unhelpful leak.
As usual, I am woefully behind on all the things I intended to write about here. I'm taking a week off work soon so will endeavour to catch up (in between finally getting round to sowing some seeds of course).
In the meantime, here's a cardigan I knitted for a friend's baby. Far too late for either birth or Christmas, needless to say, but there we are. I do love a bit of self-patterning yarn.
And yes, I did finish it off on a train. I can't even remember where I was going, it was that long ago.
I'm delighted to report that the new ladies are settling in nicely. Fences have been removed, squabbling has largely stopped, and while there are still two distinct factions (old and new), there is at least some peace in the chicken run (for now, at least).
Rusty is proving to be our new quiet adventurer. She doesn't say much. She's usually the last out of the hen house in the morning, and from what I can see is the bottom of the pecking order. But she's often the first to try something new (although she's only eaten out of our hands once).
Beaky likes to stick her beak into everything, and has an endearing habit of flicking food everywhere. Bessie is affectionate, and is the only one who will voluntarily sit on your knee.
Mildred and Maud have stopped bossing the new ladies about, and have moved largely to ignoring them. They've also stopped laying in their favourite garden bush, and have taken to laying in the coal shed instead. Mildred was even investigating the boot of the car the other day.
The new ladies have been exposed to quite a lot of weather since they've been here. Their first week the sun shone, and they enjoyed their new-found freedom to wander.
Then it got rather wet and windy, and they spent most of their time not coming out of the cosy chicken run.
Today it's snowing.
Beaky managed to fly up on to the arm of the garden bench - but then didn't want to get back down again. I've had to scrape the snow off some of the grass near the chicken run for them (yes, I'm a softie).
Mildred and Maud are old hands now. They were exactly the same the first time they saw snow (Maud wouldn't stand in it at all), but today they just strode off like it was no big deal.
They're heading for the coal shed, which they've recently decided is a more desirable laying spot than either the nest box (too many new chickens hanging round) or their usually preferred garden bush. I caught one of them in there this morning, so I must go back and check how many eggs are nestled among the coal and kindling.
As I often do at this time of year, I've started running again. Not very far, not very fast.
My running is precarious at this time. I find it very easy to give up again, and so it's useful to make it enjoyable rather than 'just exercise'.
This morning I knew I'd be driving past Tittesworth Reservoir, so I went out in my running kit and planned an out and back route up one side.
The weather wasn't as bad as I'd expected, so I ended up going all the way round. Some running, some walking, and a lot of stopping to take photographs.
It was breezy and cold, and the sun flitted in and out of the clouds, but I quite like that kind of weather for a run, it makes me feel like I'm having an adventure (albeit a very mild one).
I'd done just over 4.5 miles by the time I got back to the car, and I was cold and windswept. The cafe was open, but I saved that for another day and came home for a cup of tea and a hot bath.
I could get used to this running lark (again).
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.