It was -2 this morning, so goodness knows what the temperature was in the middle of the night. By the time John brings my tea up, the duvet has worked its way half way down the bed, and only comes up to my waist. Then Tessa jumps on the bed, and firmly secures the duvet in place, and I am freezing. So this morning, imagine my delight (albeit sleepily) when I realised John had not only made me a cup of tea, but brought me a hot water bottle as well! Fabulous, but a problem, as I then want to stay there and cuddle it and not get up.
There was ice everywhere this morning. I kept warning the horses to go steady on the way to the field, and from there they picked their way gingerly across the grass. I had to follow them up and break the ice on the trough.
I kept Max in with the intention of riding, and tacked him up and rode out about 10am, but only went round the corner and up the road. The next road was totally white and I know I can't ride Max on it. He finds slippery ground quite terrifying. Disappointed, I turned round and made my way home. I looked up the next road as well, and that was totally white up the middle, so I may try again tomorrow and see if I can make my way to the livery yard and use the school instead. The ice had melted by lunch time, but I can't keep Max in all day waiting for it to happen.
We have discussed the possibility of me having a riding lesson at the riding school up the road, but if I can only have one lesson a month, it's not really worth it, as Max won't be fit enough to benefit from it. I am having fun teaching myself at the moment, so we'll see. I am also debating whether to bother clipping him again, and to almost rough him off instead, but I've realised in this last couple of weeks that he likes to work and be active and doing something, he doesn't want to spend the whole winter standing in a field bored to tears. So we'll see. I am dithering again. It's a very bad habit, but it's difficult to make plans as it's depressing when you can't do anything. It's ok saying we'll hire Park Gate Arena, but if there's snow on the ground, we won't be able to drive the lorry there.
A couple of years ago (before we got here) A took the boys to school in the car, lost control and slid down the hill, finally crashing (not too fast) into the wall at the bottom. And that's in a Landrover. He managed to get the boys to a friend of his, and sort out towing the car home, then took the boys to school, only to find it was closed for the day and he needn't have bothered going! So there's no way we're risking a journey in icy conditions with our two precious horses in the lorry.
I had Six and Nine after school today. I am in charge of homework. At the beginning of each new term, they are given a sheet with homework tasks, all worth either 5, 10 or 15 points. They have to do enough tasks to get 30 points as a minimum before the end of term. Before I took this over, they weren't doing any homework at all. Last term they got 30 points and this term they will have about 45 by the time they've finished. Nine is doing a project on Ancient Egypt, which brings back fond memories of home education, where my children bandaged each other up in true mummy style. Six is doing The Stuarts, so we've been doing a lot about the Great Fire of London. I'd be stuck without the internet.
I am also reading Charlotte's Web to them. I had forgotten how beautiful it is. There was a passage yesterday that reminded me so much of Max:
'...(Wilbur the pig) had other plans too. His plans for the day went something like this:
Breakfast at six-thirty. Skim milk, crusts, middlings, bits of doughnuts, wheat cakes with drops of maple syrup sticking to them, potato skins, left-over custard pudding with raisins, and bits of Shredded Wheat.
Breakfast would be finished at seven.
From seven to eight Wilbur planned to have a talk with Templeton, the rat that lived under his trough. Talking with Templeton was not the most interesting occupation in the world but it was better than nothing.
From eight to nine Wilbur planned to take a nap outdoors in the sun.
From nine to eleven he planned to dig a hole, or trench, and possibly find something good to eat buried in the dirt.
From eleven to twelve, he planned to stand still and watch flies on the boards, watch bees in the clover, and watch swallows in the air.
Twelve o'clock - lunch time. Middlings, warm water, apple parings, meat gravy, carrot scrapings, meat scraps, stale hominy, and the wrapper off a package of cheese. Lunch would be over at one.
From one to two, Wilbur planned to sleep.
From two to three, he planned to scratch itchy places by rubbing against the fence.
From three to four, he planned to stand perfectly still and think of what it was like to be alive, and to wait for Fern.
At four would come supper. Skim milk, provender left-over sandwich from Lurvy's lunchbox, prune skins, a morsel of this, a bit of that, fried potatoes, marmalade drippings, a little more of this, a little more of that, a piece of baked apple, a scrap of upside-down cake.
Wilbur had gone to sleep thinking about these plans...'
Apart from the much more varied diet, E.B. White could have been describing Max's day perfectly. I had to laugh. Mind you, I did give him the icing off my cake on Sunday and he sucked on it for ages, swinging his head up and down. I imagine he had some sort of sugar rush an hour later, but it's hard to tell.
Anyway, I digress. One of Nine's tasks was to follow a recipe and take the result to school. They are very crafty like this. Last term his project was chocolate. I can imagine the conversation in the staff room. "What can we get the little blighters to learn about this term?" Large teacher with PMS: "I know! What about chocolate?" "Brilliant! We can get them to do cooking and bring it in from home so we can all scoff it!" "Yes, and we can have a school trip to Cadbury World!" "Good idea, oink oink!"
I fell for it and Nine made a chocolate sponge that disappeared into the bowels of the school, never to be seen again.
So as I've had a bit of a project on cakes and biscuits over the summer, I've decided to move on to pastry. I trawled the internet, looking for jam tarts, then realised I didn't have any jam. I decided cheese straws were the next best thing, so we made them this evening. They were so simple, quick and downright delicious, it's a wonder we didn't eat them all there and then. I managed to prize some of them away from the boys (okay, me and the boys... ok, mostly me) and put them in the tin for tomorrow. If they make it into school, and aren't scoffed on the bus in the morning, I'll be very surprised.
In the middle of this, I went to put the chickens to bed. You can either chase them in at 3.30pm or you can wait until 4.30 and find they've put themselves to bed, and all you have to do is whizz in (watch the chicken on your left, who's beak is in line with your face) grab the eggs and close the door. I take a torch with me just to make sure. Tonight I shone it round and counted five startled chickens, who had actually settled down for the night, ready for the next episode of Corrie. Wait a moment! I check again. Still only five. Oh dear.
I went back to the stables and shone a torch round each horse and his bed, until finally, right in the left hand back corner of Barnaby's stable... was Henny Penny, clearly comfortable and in for the night, except that that corner is exactly where Barnaby is going to lay his head in two hour's time. I slipped in, put my hand on her back and picked her up. She murmered something sleepily, and I carried her carefully back to the coop. She recognised where she was after a while and warbled appreciatively to me. Very sweet. A life saved, I think.
I have cooked the venison tonight, a first for me. All the recipes I found said to marinade it first, so I did, in a lot of red wine and other things. Then I guessed the cooking time, and slow cooked it, and I have to say, it was delicious. I cooked it in the marinade, then used it to make a rich gravy. Lovely.
So of course, it's December 1st, and we have opened our Advent Calendars. This is the wooden one I bought from Chatsworth on Sunday. Each number is painted on a little drawer. I sent John a text before he finished work asking him to buy some tiny sweets to go in them on his way home, so he brought M&M's and jelly babies. We couldn't fit a jelly baby into the drawer without biting its head off first, which didn't seem very in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, and most of the M&M's were too big, so we had to fish out the little ones and eat the big ones, which seems very festive indeed. All I need now is some holly and mistletoe and we're ready.
I couldn't resist these, either. They are a little Santa in a sleigh, but they rock when you push them. So sweet.