Easter Holiday Mosaics

I took far too many pictures of our holidays at the farm…ice and snowhens and eggsegg huntingeaster viewsrandom momentssheepdays outBut now it’s out of my system! Sorry for inflicting so many holiday photographs, it’s probably unforgivable.

Come for a walk with me

IMG_2021Put on your wellies, warm clothes and waterproofs because we are going to visit a Cumbrian hill farm.

IMG_2039Just look at those snow drifts piled high against the dry stone walls. A few days before this photo was taken the road was completely blocked.

IMG_2019When I took this photo the weather was dry and fairly bright, despite the cloud. The air is cold, clean and crisp up here. Turning to the left we can admire the landscape of deceptively dry-looking open fell and the snowy North Pennines in the distance.

IMG_2051Carrying on along the road, the modern farm house comes into view. Usually by this time of year the fields at either side of this road are starting to fill up with ewes and new lambs but the long winter has delayed things a bit.

IMG_1996Cross the cattle grid into the farm yard.

IMG_1992This road is actually a public bridleway as you can see from the photo. When the weather is better this is a fairly popular route with cyclists. They often speed through the farm with the sound of several barking sheepdogs ringing in their ears.

IMG_1988Turning around 180 degrees to look back on the cattle grid and the view over the fell.

IMG_2062After passing through the first part of the farm, we carry on into the older part of the farm. Straight ahead is the byre where the sheep are brought if they need more help during lambing time. You can just see a tiny bit of white wall beyond the byre. That is the old farm house, now a holiday cottage, where we stayed.

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IMG_2079Now we have arrived at our accommodation, complete with genuine farmer in high viz jacket (my brother-in-law). This house dates from the 1700’s and is built right into the slope of the hill.view from cottageThis is the view from the front door of the cottage. The photos from top to bottom, left to right are as follows: looking to the right the public bridleway continues up to Loadpot Hill after first dipping down to the foot of the valley. Straight ahead is the building where the cows overwinter and to the left is the picnic table and beyond that the sheep maternity ward byre. The green frame on the door is surrounding a new heavy duty mesh door that has been put in place in an attempt to keep the badgers out. Badgers have caused a bit of trouble this year. I suspect that they are being driven to attacking lambs as their normal food is running thin due to the hard winter. While we were there, my brother-in-law saw badgers in his main barn during daylight hours, eating the cattle feed. That is not normal behaviour.

IMG_6715Inside the house there is a cosy living room with an even cosier stove. Thankfully these days there are also some electric wall heaters, otherwise it would be a very cold place to stay.

IMG_6717This is the view from the kitchen window. It’s a cracker, though it is sometimes obscured by a sheep peering in. There is one house further up the valley, you might just be able to pick out the roof, four squares in from the left and five whole squares up. It is currently under major renovations. I’m sure it will be on ‘Grand Designs’ one day. I remember poking around in it a few years ago and it was completely derelict with no access road, no mains water or electricity. I’d love to see it when it’s done.

IMG_6766 The mesh on the window is a bit of a necessity  because it’s base is actually level(ish) with the ground outside and the area beyond the window often acts as a sheep pen. You can see this in the picture above. I’m always entertained when a sheep strolls past while I’m washing up.

IMG_6726Here is the same view but taken from an upstairs window. I would really like to take you on a little photographic walk down the snowy track next to the fence but I’m not sure my photos are good enough.

I hope you have enjoyed this little visit to Scales Farm (click on the link for more photos). It’s well worth a visit for the views alone, which I can’t do justice to with my camera.

 

Barefoot on the beach in February

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IMG_6285Today was bright and still. Slowly but surely the days are getting longer and the quality of the light is changing. The low sun makes the ripple patterns in the sand show up beautifully and the colours of the beach, the water and the sky are delightfully harmonious. Mother Nature never gets it wrong. On days like today, when the weather is clear and bright I feel quite drawn to the beach. Having it just a short drive away makes me very happy.

Son Number One has his father’s genes when it comes to feeling the cold. Only he was crazy enough to wander around bare foot. His toes were looking rather pink by the time we left.

Our local beach is not traditionally picturesque; the chemical industry, a nuclear power station and a large international dock have seen to that, However there are wide, golden sands and high cliffs in the distance. There is always plenty to see. Today it was horses, dogs big and small, lots of shells and seaweed among the rock pools and the growing offshore wind farm.

The North-East has it’s grimy side but it’s cheap to live here and we have great outdoor spaces on our doorstep. I hope we have plenty more opportunities to feel the sand between our toes in 2013.

Digging Days Part 2 – Alone in the garden

I’ve had a strange bank holiday weekend. It feels as if I have spent quite a lot of it on my own. In all honesty, I haven’t been alone that much, just more than usual. When you spend most of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) moments with a small child it seems awfully quiet when someone else takes over.

The Husband has been dealing with Babykins for the last few nights. It’s bliss to not have to jump out of bed and try and settle him down before he disturbs the rest of the household. I’d love it if he could consistently sleep all through the night, solidly for twelve hours. I just don’t think that it’s part of his make-up.

Anyway, I’ve been getting my shut eye alone, while the Husband has taken to the spare bed next to Babykins’ cot. He has got up with him early in the morning and been busy, busy from the get-go. Yesterday, by the time I’d surfaced, they had disappeared to the allotment. They had collected the green waste and taken it to the local tip before I’d eaten breakfast!

The older two were enjoying their ‘holidays’ at Grandma’s so I woke up to an empty house. I can imagine many parents of small children sighing and wishing for the same experience but let me tell you, it was weird. I had a glimpse into the world of the ’empty nester’ and I did not like it one little bit! It seemed that suddenly, nobody needed me.

When the biggest and smallest boy came back from their errands, we decided that I would go down to the allotment myself and try to get on with some planting. That is the usual division of labour. I leave the hard, back breaking work to the Husband and then faff about deciding on which direction the rows of seeds should go in. Or in this case, Charlotte potatoes.

I felt a nagging sense of guilt as I got started on my own. Surely I should have been looking after the children? I put it to the back of my mind and tried to enjoy the experience of being in the sun, fresh air and peace and quiet. On days like this when my emotions make me feel mixed up, I am grateful for the time I have spent doing yoga. I am really out of practice with the physical side of yoga but I find myself coming back to the mental side of things again and again. I don’t really have the words to express how it works for me, I wish I did. The best I can do is to say that learning about yoga philosophy has given me a sense of being ‘mindful’. Sometimes just acknowledging feelings is enough to allow me to move on. It isn’t always that simple, but often it is.

Getting interested in blog world is another strangely mindful experience. When I started reading other people’s blogs I realised that documenting everyday life somehow makes you value ordinary, daily existence. It’s just like writing a diary, something I’ve always like the idea of but never really got to grips with. Perhaps it is the ability to really capture moments in time with pictures as well as words. There’s something very therapeutic in reflecting on the things in your life that have given you pleasure.

Anyway, don’t feel too sorry for me and my lonely moments (er, it’s ok, I know you don’t!). I enjoyed having a bit of time to play at taking photos of the buds and blooms that are around at the moment. I have been quite pleased with the results from my iPhone camera.

It wasn’t long before I had a visit from Babykins and the Husband. I had a fun, if slightly strained time (I knew he had no spare clothes with him) helping Babykins get to grips with mud and water.

Not long after he had gone, the other two arrived with Grandma. They worked together for a while, taking straw to the strawberry patch but they weren’t really in the mood to cooperate with each other. Grandma decided to take the Middle Miss off to the shops and Son Number One stayed behind with me.

I was trying to finish digging over the patch where the broccoli had been, in order to plant the rest of the seed potatoes. Fortunately, this was a job Son Number One was happy to help with. We did some digging, We did some raking, then I made the holes and he planted the spuds. When we had no more potatoes left, we decided to fill in the rest of the bed with a few rows of peas. I was very glad I had a helper at this point because I wanted to construct some sort of support for them to climb up. It would have been a tricky job on my own. It’s been a long time coming, having a boy who was more of a help than a hindrance in the garden but it’s happened this weekend.

Before

After

Splishy Splashy Springtime

Did I mention we spend a lot of time next to water when we’re out on family walks?

We’ve certainly enjoyed messing about by the river during the month of April.

You can always find something ‘interesting’.
Obviously it’s a love heart
and, er, a water creature?
Even babykins got in on the action eventually.
Shame my funky footwear has got a hole in it. What is it with wellies these days? They don’t last at all.
Having In-Laws who live in Cumbria has it’s advantages.

I knew a good thing when I spotted the Husband. He knows I only married him for his ‘day out’ potential.

The joy of…..Lambing time

Son Number One is in love with the farming experience. At Christmas, when I asked him if anything was as exciting as the festive season he replied “Well, maybe lambing time”. I remember feeling the same excitement as a child when we visitied a friend’s farm. There must be some deep connection with our collective agricultural past. As you may know, sister and brother-in-law live on a Cumbrian hill farm. It’s in a beautiful, quiet spot on the far eastern side of the Lake District National Park. The hill on the horizon is Loadpot Hill, this picture was taken on the footpath to Whale (yes, there is a little hamlet called that). The River Lowther is just below the first row of trees. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see a white spot next to my arrow. That is the gable end of their home.

We set off for our Easter fix of lambing time activities straight away as school broke up on the 29th of March. This year we had arranged to stay with some friends in the holiday cottage. It’s actually the old farm house and looks out onto a yard full of cows. Our boys were very much looking forward to being involved in the working of the farm. I think it’s fair to say their expectations were exceeded!

Our car parked up in front of the cottage

The (sheep’s eye) view from the kitchen window. The mesh is to ensure they don’t decide to join you at lunch time.

Stove in living room

Did I mention the yard and the cows?

The children were given small jobs to do and that definitely added to their enjoyment. All six year olds like to think that they can do a task as well as an adult, and in the farming world, sometimes they can. No wonder Son Number One’s confidence goes up in leaps and bounds with each visit.

In this day and age, when freedom to play outdoors is limited, what small child could fail to enjoy building a straw bale den, covering their wellies in muck and then washing it off in a tumbling stream, collecting eggs ‘straight from the hen’s bottom’ or herding sheep in a family team. There are few adults who don’t get some pleasure from the experience of bottle feeding a hungry lamb. We did all those things.

Last weekend we sneaked back for one last fix of lambing time. I would be misleading you if I said it was a perfect weekend because actually, we had a fair bit of sickness in the family. All the children have had a bug, which I suspect was ‘slapped cheek disease/fifth disease’. However, I would still do it again. You can’t beat chasing sheep in such a beautiful location, especially when you find out that it rained at home and was fine ‘down on the farm’.

I will leave you with some more images of our trips. Don’t forget, if you fancy a visit yourself, you can find details here. The rates are very reasonable and I think there is still some summer holiday availability.