I just got told off!

”Where’s my weekend blog to read?”    A couple walking through our farmyard this morning asked!    Well, here it is …    They live in the village and sometimes walk across the football field, across the bridge at Fisherman’s Lodge and up the old ‘soil track’.   The path comes through a tiny gate into our farmyard and exits through a lovely old ‘kissing gate’ and across the fields to an old Chapel.   You can then cut across the road and follow another stone flagged path to the Railway Children’s House.   I love that film and one of my pupils is playing one of Perks’ children at Hebden Bridge.   Last night I managed to get heard (although I found it very difficult to actually hear myself) at a dinner for over 200 people!   The staff at the Hotel are FANTASTIC!    Yes, I give them a plug!   Thank you for all the thumbs up and big grins as I played ‘background music’.   It is a weird feeling being surrounded by hundreds of people but actually feeling very alone.   I watch, and notice things as I play, taking in the odd gesture of appreciation and noting the music and following that tune with another in the same vein.  Without anyone noticing you can control the atmosphere, keeping it buoyant or creating a moment where everything stops to hear the very last note of a tune.  I suddenly noticed a flurry of autograph taking – apologies to anyone famous – I never notice until afterwards!   Last night it was only when I left that it dawned on me that the faces I was trying to recognise from my past experiences were actually faces I watched on TV in Emmerdale …     One of my pupils is very, very proud of her Dad because he writes it.  This week another 9 year old touched my heart.   After Karate every week we play a ball game.   My step son loves this bit and this week he was thrilled to be chosen to be ‘on’.   Although I danced and ran past him within inches he refused to throw the ball at me to ‘get me out’.   At the end all the class were shouting at him to hit me but no …   As the final player sat down he proudly handed me the ball with a huge smile.   ”You’re on now.”

Blind Mary and picking up sticks

In 17th Century Ireland there was a woman who played the harp – very unusual for the day as it was men’s work.  However this lady was supported by the harp players.  To earn enough money to live she searched the woods for sticks to make up bundles of kindling to sell.  I consider myself very, very lucky to spend 10 minutes in our wood every day collecting kindling.  At one with nature the rabbits and birds seem to ignore me breaking twigs and branches.  I see and hear all sorts – its beautiful.   Yesterday the Canadian Geese were making a racket – gathering together ready to migrate for the winter.  The reason I pick sticks?   We researched and bought the top of the range Italian wood burning cooker!    It is absolutely brilliant.  It heats the house, heats the water and cooks.  It needs small, tinder dry pieces of wood.   It is the best ‘boy scout’s toy’ ever!  Me and my son (a Scout Leader) have challenged ourselves to cook a full ‘fry-up’ breakfast on a bucketful of sticks – it does it easily.  I am making Bramble Jelly at the moment and for the first time I have a cooker hot enough to set it beautifully.  My next project is Crabapple and Rosehip Jelly – an essential food for me (I hate ketchup!).   The temperature dropped the other night so I have just replaced 3 strings on my collection of 33 harps.  Not bad when you think each harp has up to 122 strings!

i mention no names

I used to see crested newts, adders and moorhens on my walks. There used to be brown trout and a dozen pairs of heron in the streams. The herons are very rare now – the rest gone – for good? – who knows? I do not support or believe in intensive farming. It has become nearly impossible for us now to achieve a simple environmental existence in this valley. On a current planning application the applicant is proudly saying he is one of the largest farms employing large numbers of people in the area. As objectors we are merely allowed to comment on visual implications. These are the things we are not allowed to comment on. We are smallholders, we make an honest living but we are unable to apply for organic status as the land and water courses are now so polluted it will take nearly a hundred years to clear they tell us. All the land above us is farmed differently. It has been deep ploughed and re-seeded with fast growing, high yielding grass which can be cut 3 times every year for silage to feed dairy cows. The muck from the cow sheds is stored and spread on these fields. The dairy detergent which is used to wash the sheds out has to be disposed of environmentally so it doesn’t enter the watercourses. The cows have huge udders and sometimes they struggle to walk – sometimes their back legs give way and they do the splits. This farm has to reduce their carbon footprint so they have applied for 2 giant windmills – also stating they can expand and this will be good. I wonder if we will lose the hundreds of bats which circle our house every night, the owls and the flowers and herbs which are slowly and surely being replaced with reeds…