Watching the world

Four times a year Daisy goes to have her hair done. She’s a very woolly spaniel and without grooming, she gets matted and this causes skin problems, not to mention discomfort. When she first came to us the fur on her ears was very tangled and the only way to deal with the problem was to have them clipped – it was impossible to get through the mats even with a specialist ‘rake’, and attempting to do so caused her pain. So, every 12 weeks or so I take her to Vicky, the groomer at the vets, and she is transformed from a woolly bear:

Woolly

To a sleek, shiny spaniel:

Smooth

Whilst Daisy is being washed and clipped, Sam and I have an hour to spend. Since, it is often raining, we have got into the habit of going to a dog-friendly pub. I buy a coffee and Sam has complimentary dog biscuits, It’s a rather nice building, with big windows that have wide, low sills – just perfect for a small dog to settle down on and watch the world go by:

Sam is happy to be entertained this way for an hour, and she usually gets some fuss from other customers, but I try to take something to occupy my time. One or two of you have received a letter that I have written in this very spot, and another one of you will be the lucky recipient of this my latest epistle. In fact, from the perspective of letters, I could do with weekly trips to catch up!

Sometimes it’s good to have time out like this… and you will notice there was a letter involved, so I’m getting over my writer’s block – hurrah!

Ready

Much as I like cooking, I’m not always very good at eating, at least not when I’m at home on my own. I often just don’t feel like bothering. I get distracted by something I’m doing, in the evening particularly, and by the time I think about eating, it feels like it’s too late. A few weeks ago, I was so remiss that I ended up rather unwell and having to visit my doctor, where I was prescribed something to help calm my digestive system. This seems rather silly, since the issue is completely avoidable – I just need to eat!

The solution (obviously) is to have things available that I want to eat. Things that can be prepared quickly, but that are nutritious and appealing, especially since I frequently can’t even think of anything that I actually fancy.

Ready-to-heat

So, over the past few weeks, as well as making lots of individually portioned soups for the freezer, I’ve been cooking extra so that I have some home-made “ready meals”. I’ve now got several portions of bolognaise, pork casserole and lasagne all waiting for evenings when I can’t bring myself to prepare anything. As you can see, there’s some room on the shelf for more – I’d like to be well-stocked with lots of variety.

It’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever cooked, but it served its purpose

Indeed, yesterday I found myself not wanting to cook and not in the mood for food. However, I was able to extract a lasagne, defrost it and then pop it in the oven to warm up without really having to consider that I actually didn’t feel like eating. I’m making sure that all my ready meals contain lots of vegetables, so I get some nutritional balance. Hopefully this will prevent further medications and trips to the GP.

And now I am looking for suggestions and recipes: what do you suggest I might include in my ready meal repertoire?

Growing and groaning

The saga of the tooth continues – the first part of the root canal work has been completed, but it has awoken the infection and so I’m back on antibiotics. Hopefully the stuff I’m taking now will have less of an adverse effect on me than the last lot. Anyway, I have a few weeks to wait before the procedure can continue. In the mean time I’m sitting here, moaning gently and watching my garden grow….

I’ve photographed the good bits and carefully avoided the jungle elsewhere!

Making memories

It’s all too easy to get into a rut.

Mr Snail has been working away from home for 11 months now (with the prospect of at least six more to come) and so we are used to the routine. The trouble is that “the routine” has got so routine that we’ve rather stopped doing anything novel. Last week I decided, therefore, that we ought to climb out of our rut.

Mr Snail gets home any time from about 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, but the traffic usually means that it’s later than this, sometimes much later. It does, however, mean that there is time to do something in the evening. Having checked the weather forecast, I discovered that it was supposed to be a beautiful evening, so at about 6:30 we got in the car and drove the 15 minutes to New Quay, where we had (plastic-free) fish and chips on the quay from a great place called The Lime Crab… actually it’s quite posh, so Mr Snail had mackerel goujons and chips with tartare sauce and I had tempura prawns and chips with sweet chilli sauce. And then, we went on a sunset boat ride to see dolphins. I don’t have any pictures of the dolphins (we saw several), but there were other gems that I did manage to photograph.

The company who run the trips have a lobsterpot on the reef, which you can see being lifted in one of the pictures, and this is where the lobster came from (it was released after we’d had a few minutes to look at it). Actually there were three lobsters and a spider crab in there… all released after their brief visit to the surface. The cliff ledges were teeming with razorbills and guillemots as well as various gulls. The (unpictured) dolphins were happily feeding over the reef and we saw three species of jellyfish. In total, we spent a delightful hour and a half on the boat, and it was a great way to round off a rather stressful week.

It’s easy to forget what a beautiful part of the world we live in… I think we need to make a little more effort to enjoy it.

That difficult age

You may have been wondering about my lack of blogging this year… in fact I have been too. I started the year with grand plans for book writing, but these didn’t actually come to fruition until the last month and even then my writing is a bit erratic. To begin with I thought that I was just feeling uninspired and then Max died and I was feeling sad, but as the year progressed I realised that I was suffering from what I can only describe as brain fog, sometimes accompanied by poor sleep and lethargy and sometimes accompanied by feelings of stress. I bimbled along for a while before realising that these were symptoms of the menopause. It’s a funny old thing – if you are pregnant, you can talk about the effects of your hormones on your body and your brain quite freely (and get support and sympathy), but if (like 100% of women will be at some stage in their life) you are menopausal, you keep quiet. This means that you don’t know what to expect; I was beginning to think I was going bonkers.

The really strange thing was, as soon as I realised and started chatting to my friends of a similar age, it all seemed much more manageable and normal. Mr Snail was worried about me too, and finding out that what I am going through is normal has helped him immensely. Everybody has different experiences, but I found some common threads – often mental rather than physical. The classic symptom is the hot flush, which I started having these about six years ago. They are rare for me now and I assumed that their gradual disappearance meant that is was all over – I was wrong. Brain fog, however, seems to be something most women I have talked to experience.

Anyway, this is the real reason why I haven’t been writing much. It seems to have adversely affected my creativity too and so I haven’t produced so many fun/lovely/quirky things to show you. However, I’m hoping that my newfound honesty and support network (including Sister of Snail, Mrs Robinson and The Great Creator) will buoy me up and help me find a new perspective.

I’ve toyed with writing this post for the past few weeks and wondered whether it was just too much to share, but then I watched a programme on the BBC the other day about the subject, which highlighted the need to talk about this and not to feel ashamed or embarrassed.  So, here I am. Sorry gents if you find this uncomfortable, but if you ever encounter women, this is something that is relevant to you too and which it would be useful to understand. So, lets start some conversations and accept that we all go through changes in our lives during which we need support and understanding.

I’ll just finish with two of my favourite songs from the wonderful Henry Priestman both about getting older… listen to the lyrics, they are wonderful.

 

 

Finding Rainbows

We make a special space in our lives and our hearts for our pets, and when we lose them, we are left with a hole. Max was a huge part of our lives and his care was one of our major concerns during the last few months of his life so his departure left me very sad and empty. But, what kind friends I have… in very short order a parcel arrived all the way from Pauline (The Contented Crafter) in New Zealand, with a very special light-catcher made to commemorate Max’s life. There is even a little heart shaped frame in which I have placed a photo.

Isn’t it lovely? And, in combination with my other light catcher (made specially by Pauline for the limery) I have rainbows (which look lovelier in real life)

like the ones that Max left in my memory.

Daisy is doing a good job of making new rainbows in our life and she and Sam seem to be enjoying each other’s company.

What joy to give another unwanted dog a home… although I can’t for the life of me understand why she was taken back to the rescue. Perhaps it was the singing.

Within or without?

Where does happiness come from?

Do you make your own or does it arrive as a gift from others?

These days I’m a relatively happy person. But then I’m lucky – a roof over my head, a partner to share life’s ups and downs, enough food on the table and no financial worries. It’s a good start and it means I don’t wake up every day fretting about the practicalities of life. But after that, I think it’s probably more about attitude than anything else. We all know that waking up feeling cross or sad or scared (for whatever reason) sets the tone for the whole day, whilst starting out feeling positive generally results in a much better day.

So, with my positive hat on (ooh – perhaps I should make one), here are some (simple)things that have made me happy recently…

Gosh, I realize now that my ‘happy’ certainly originates close to home: eggs from our hens and things made from them (ice cream and French toast), a spot of mending, some (British wool) knitting and a jar of honey from some friends’ bees. The preserved fruit that went with the French toast came from further afield, but I did bottle it myself… only the maple syrup was not a product (at least in part) of my own work.

Clearly what makes me happy is domesticity. How about you?

 

 

 

Who’s a chicken?

For more than two months now UK poultry have had to be confined to keep them separate from wild birds because of the risk of avian ‘flu’. Originally it was suggested that they should be housed 24/7, but when it was realised that is was not possible, netted areas with water and feed kept under a solid cover was deemed to be acceptable. The end to this restriction is in sight: after the end of February birds will be allowed to range once again as long as various mitigation measures are in place.

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Approved disinfectant and Self-assessment form

The situation varies a little across the UK, but here in Wales all poultry keepers are required to complete a self-assessment form which they must have available if they are inspected. This outlines the actions that they are taking to minimise contact between wild birds and stock (e.g. use of bird scarers) and the biosecurity measures being implemented (e.g. hosing down and disinfecting concrete paths, disinfecting boots after accessing poultry).

For the duration of the restrictions, the hens Chez Snail have been happily foraging in the fruit cage, which has been connected to their small run and house by a netted corridor. Their small run always has a ‘roof’ over it to give them somewhere to shelter from the rain, so their feeder has been in there. Now they are going to be allowed to range free round their half of the garden, however, a different sort of feeder seemed like a good idea. So, I bought a rodent-proof, wildbird-proof feeder…

The hen stands on the pedal,the lid opens and there’s the food. It can only be activated by something weighing more than 500g, so garden birds and most rodents won’t even be able to open the lid. We can keep this out on their range without fear of attracting wild birds.

The only issue now, is training them to use it. Yesterday, we put it into the fruit cage propped the lid open and there was some interest…

Today, even with the lid propped open, they very carefully avoided it… hens really are chicken when it comes to new things. So, Mr Snail has been out there showing them the ropes… with some success:

I hope they get the hang of it soon – or at least before the end of the month!

Loveliness

I saw this as I was coming home this afternoon… it’s good to enjoy the loveliness in this world…

The colours were even better in real life.

It’s beginning to look a lot like solstice

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Last 25 December we had a picnic in the limery

As many of you know, we don’t celebrate Christmas Chez Snail, although we do have a nice relaxing day on 25 December. The thing that we celebrate here is the solstice – the real turning of the year, the time when the light starts to return and we look forward to the abundance of the coming seasons. Some would say it’s pagan, but for me it’s a primal thing – deeply embedded in all of us – a spark of hope as the days start to get longer and the prospect of summer calls to us. So, the solstice is a genuine reason to celebrate, which we do with food (not presents).

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Solstice lights in 2015

This year on the solstice we are going to be eating pork…ethically sourced of course. I’ll be cooking it long and slow to create ‘pulled pork’ and I’ll be baking bread rolls to serve it on. There will be a leafy salad and various home-made condiments and then we’ll finish with some sort of cake made using the abundance of eggs that our hens are still laying. We’ll eat in the limery – the source of so much abundance over the past year, and we’ll celebrate the coming of light with light – beeswax candles and fairy lights.

If you are in the northern hemisphere perhaps you too will raise a glass to the prospect of summer, and if you are in the southern hemisphere I hope you will be revelling in warm log days and the bounty of summer*.

-oOo-

* Of course, if you live in the tropics, such points in the year mean little and I hope that you will be enjoying your mangoes and papayas as often as possible!

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