Friday, 29 January 2010

The Cure-All

Finally, I've found it, the cure for all my ills. It's scientifically proven and medically tested. You don't even need a prescription. What is it, this amazing wonder drug? It's commonly known as ...

a lay in!

yes, I've taken one yesterday and one today, and I feel like a completely different person. Who would have guessed the powerful, healing properties of


I haven't had a lay-in since the horses came in in November, I've just mucked out, ridden, shopped, cooked, cleaned and ironed ever since, and I think I've been suffering from exhaustion. It's amazing what a bit of sleep can do to restore you physically and mentally, isn't it? That's why the 'I'm selling Max,' scenarios have crept in again. It all got a bit too much. Sorry if I've been a bit down. I knew I had to do something so I asked Missis if she would turn my horses out along with her own, and I would 'appear' when I was ready. What a blessing. This may have to be a regular thing, to get me through the rest of the winter.
It's also about habit and routine, I think. We did so little riding over Christmas because of the snow, that I've just got used to mucking out and going indoors, and I've had to make myself get back into the horsey habit. I have to say, a lack of facilities and having no one to motivate me doesn't help, either.
So I lunged Max on Wednesday, as you know, and rode him yesterday. The reduction in feed really seems to be working, and he was a lot calmer. He had a good look round at things, but didn't do anything dramatic, and worked extremely well in the school, which cheered me up enormously.
I've been busy indoors, too. I've finally finished the little cross stitch bear for Mr O's valentine's card, which looks like this:

The back stitch took ages, but was well worth it. I'll add some wording on the front and inside, but not too much, to detract from the picture. Can't wait to give it to him. I am also well under way with the christening present, but very nervous about the actual sewing part, but maybe I can do it, we'll see.
I set myself a challenge this month, to make a banoffee pie, as I had it in a cafe last year and thought it was gorgous. As I was eating it I thought, 'surely I could make this?' and so set myself a challenge to make one this month. I consulted the oracle (my sister Lorayne, maker of all things nice!) and she said to go on the Nestle website, where a fool-proof recipe awaited me. (What's she trying to say?!)
So I ordered all the ingredients in my weekly shop, and yesterday I set to.
First I had to make a biscuit base like you do for cheese cake, with melted butter stirred in. I have seen recipes where you make a pastry base and bake it blind, but phooey to that.
So here's my base.

You have to put it in the fridge to chill for twenty minutes (while you do some cross stitch or something).
Then you open a tin of Carnation caramel and pour it on. (It was more blob it on, but still). Yes I have also seen recipes where you heat normal condensed milk with brown sugar, but time is of the essence here. Spread the caramel out with a palette knife.
Then whisk up whipped cream, fold in sliced banana and spread that on top of the caramel. (Stop drooling!) Then decorate with sliced banana and a dusting of cocoa powder. Lorayne said she just slices some bananas and puts them on the caramel base, then puts the whipped cream on top, but I've got to tell you, I think this version is much nicer. This is how it looked in the end:

Let's just say we had a fairly big slice each! That's all I'm saying. It was gorgous, though. In fact the rest of it is still in the fridge and I can hear it calling me - caaallling. Back soon.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Let There Be Light!

So much has been going on, I've hardly had time to tell you all the other little bits...
Last Wednesday I went out as usual to give the horses their breakfast. The stable lights were on, which means Missis is already up and has fed the horses. When I looked around, the breakfast feeds were still in place, and the outside door was closed. I had a dreadful feeling then, that when I'd checked on the horses the night before, I must have left the light on all night. Having a brainwave, I text Mr O, 'Were the stable lights on when you left for work?'
'No,' he replied.
So I went out to the barn to look for Missis. No sign of her. I dished out the breakfasts and carried on doing the chores, finding it all very peculiar.
Then on Saturday, Mr O went to feed round and the light was on again. He looked at Lindy. Lindy grinned back. He had turned the light on with his nose, as the new light switch is at the back of his stable!
He'd done it again yesterday. I think he hears Mr O leave for work, and that's his cue to turn the light on. All the other horses were blinking at me as I appeared, "Crikey that's bright! Is it time to get up?" Poor things, but very funny. The only answer is to move the light switch I suppose.
I was standing in the stables, coffeehousing with Mr O on Saturday, when I felt a bite on my finger. Marjory (the chicken) had leapt up and pecked me on the finger! Cheeky thing. We decided they must be hungry, and gave them some extra corn on the stable floor, which they scoffed. Today, when I mucked Max out, there was an egg nestling in the straw. A thankyou present?
It's been very windy today, but I was determined to lunge Max, so I turned Zak and Barnaby out, and gave Max a good groom, then put his chambon on and all the other paraphenalia. He walked out very nicely with me to the lunge ring, walking right past a feed sack that had blown off the burning pile, and not batting an eyelid, which is unusually brave.
A chambon is a device that you put on a horse while lungeing, that according to my book, 'makes the horse work long and low.' Long and low? He had his head between his knees while bucking and cantering. You can't get much lower than that, can you?
I'm hoping that that will have worked some energy off, then if I don't replace the energy with loads more food, he should start to calm down, shouldn't he? Here's hoping...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Brief History of Bolting

As you know, Max has been very lively on the few occasions I've been able to ride him since Christmas. Now I know he is just happy and excited to be out, but on Saturday, after the bucking in the road incident, by the time I came back I was ready to sell him! I'm glad I've kept this blog now, because it clearly shows that as the winter has progressed, Max has become more and more energetic, verging on dangerous. I am so scared after the bolting scenario last year, and really don't want a repeat performance. It was quite a strange weekend all round, what with the car crashes and everything, and I didn't feel very well.
I do want to keep Max, but I don't want a horse I can only ride six months of the year. What's the point of that? The truth is, last year isn't the only time he's bolted with me. He does it a couple of times every spring. Up until now he's always gone loopy in a wide open space. I am not phased at being bolted with. I know the procedure. You have to get hold of one rein and turn the horse in a circle that gradually gets smaller and smaller until they have to stop. And that does work, if you're in a big space.
The problem has been that when it happened the first time Mr O thought I was just going for a jolly gallop and galloped alongside me instead of standing still waiting for me to sort it out! This made Max go even faster, as you can imagine.
Once he did it in a big field at the back of Lindrick Golf Course (still my favourite ride to this day). When we got home Mr O said, "Don't you ever cut me up like that again!" and I didn't know what he meant until I sat and thought about it later. I am right-handed, so if Max bolts, naturally I haul like billy-o on the right rein, and gradually turn him and slow him down. But this time Mr O came steaming up on my right-hand side. I was trying to overtake him so I could begin the turn, but the faster Max went, the faster Barnaby went to keep up. I looked ahead and we were rapidly running out of field, with a woods up ahead. In the end I actually kicked Max on and cut across in front of Barnaby so I'd have some room to begin the slowing down session, and that's what annoyed Mr O, but desperate needs...
One time, not long before we left Lorna's I decided to do the Gateford ride. You go across some lovely fields, through a housing estate and back through some more fields on the way home, all in a giant rectangle.
We'd gone so far and came to a maize field. The maize was really high, so I decided to turn round and come home, when Max suddenly plunged in and started cantering through it, which was up above our heads. Then the cantering changed to galloping, as we careered blindy through the crop. The maize stalks were so thick and strong, that eventually they pushed my feet out of the stirrups. That was the beginning of the end really, as seconds later my entire legs were forced backwards and upwards, until I was laying horizontally on top of the saddle, still holding onto the reins, legs straight out behind me as though surf boarding. It was only a matter of time before I fell off and Max disappeared, crashing through the corn, out of sight. I looked about me as I got my breath back, and found his whole stirrup leather lying on the ground next to me. I got to my feet, brushed myself down, and set off in pursuit.
Fortunately, a brave man had caught Max as he'd stopped to eat grass on Gateford Common, stuffing his face as usual, totally unphased by his ordeal and not in the least bit concerned as to my welfare. We had to walk all the way round to get home, as we obviously couldn't go back the way we'd just come. Not the best ride I've ever had. Mr O had come out to look for us as we were so late getting back.
The trouble with the bolting episode last January is that it wasn't in a field, it was on a tiny grass track with a high hedge on either side, and the only way was forwards. It was an experience I'll never forget.
So, due to being extremely tired, nervous and unmotivated, I made the decision to sell Max. If you're like me, you decide 'one more fall and I'll have to quit.' I said that to myself on Saturday. Then I thought, 'No Jane, that was your last fall. Enough is enough.'
I'm going to have to tell you something else. As you know, Mr O has only been riding for about four years, and he's always been very gung-ho. He does things and jumps things that other people walk away from. Some of this is guts. Some of it is stupidity. I can remember hiring a cross country course and went with Mr O, my friend Leanne and her sister. We came to the water jump. Us three girls looked at it and could see how muddy it was in the bottom. We decided not to bother with it. Mr O decided it was 'the thing to do' and made Barnaby jump in, which he did, but promptly got stuck in the mud and threw Mr O onto the bank in his efforts to scramble out. Serves him right I'm afraid.
So I've got to be honest and admit that hacking out with Mr O makes me nervous, due to his lack of fear, and sometime lack of wisdom. He will make you ride through, over and round things you really don't want to. So when this man stopped outside our house on Saturday morning and warned us not to go where it was icy, Mr O decided to ignore him and keep going anyway. That put the fear of God into me and made me not want to go on a hack at all, so I was nervous before we even set off and looking for an excuse to come home. It's only because I went on and on about it that Mr O decided not to come up Alton Hill and just come back the way we went.

Anyway, that's by the by.

I was talking to my friend Amanda on Sunday night and she suggested I cut Max's feed right back. I told her what he was having, which I had increased while it was snowing, and she said it's too much, especially as he has Mollichop, which is full of sugar. He's always had a lot of feed in past winters because I've done indoor showjumping and been hunting, which requires masses of energy from the horse. Max is only 14.2hh though, and a cob, which means he's what you call a 'good-doer'. It's a polite term for 'a greedy little bugger', which I'm afraid he is.
So last night I watched him mosey through his tea bucket. "Carrots? Check. Mix? Check (not realising I've cut it by half) Chop? Hang on a minute, where's me chop?!"
I'm going to lunge him tomorrow, then get on him and ride him in the school and see what he's like. I sincerely hope, for his sake, that he's calm, as he was calm in the school last week, then very naughty on the way home (do you remember I got off and walked the last bit?)
To be continued...

Saturday, 23 January 2010

An Incredible Day

It seemed like quite a nice morning, so we tacked Max and Barnaby up, and walked out to the gate. A strange old man pulled up in a white van with ladders on the top and told us very firmly not to ride down Alton Hill as it was treacherous and cars were sliding on it. "Thankyou," we said and went on our way, deciding what to do, as that had been the way we'd intended to go.
We turned left and had only gone on a few paces when we heard a crash behind us. Max trotted on a bit, obviously startled, but didn't go mad. We looked behind us, and a car had crashed into the dry stone wall on the main road, where we had just come from. I turned Max round and rode back towards the car. A woman got out, and I shouted across to see if she was okay, and she said she was fine.
We decided they were, and continued with our ride.
Max was a bit of a prune, and I was very nervous because of the ice on the road, and I was dreading the black dog coming out of Flag House, as I didn't want Max to spook, but it was all fine. We decided just to go down to the bottom, turn round and come back up again, but as we went into trot, Max was being very energetic, and was bucking on the road. I find this totally offputting at the moment, and I knew if we turned round and trotted up the road he'd be off. More of this later.
So I got off and we walked back up the road together, stopping every so often for me to catch my breath (it's all up hill). Then as we got to the last stretch, Mr O said, "I think there's been another accident. That helicopter's really low." I couldn't see a helicopter at all, and didn't know what he was talking about.
But sure enough, as we approached the junction, we could see two fire engines, an ambulance, and the helicopter in the field, plus several other cars. We came up and a fireman approached us. He said, "Do you think you'll be safe walking these horses past all these engines, cutters and people?"
"Oh yes," we said.
"Well I'm not allowing it!" he said.
So we stood on the verge for half an hour while they cut someone out of the car and put them in the helicopter. I feel so awful for those poor people. But if that man hadn't warned us not to go up the hill, this would have happened right in front of us, or may have spun off and actually hit us. Protection from God?
Then the bit I wasn't looking forward to, when the rotor blades of the helicopter started spinning, then that incredible noise as the engine kicked in, and the whole thing rose gently up in the air, went backwards for a while, and then set off, presumably to Queens Med in Nottingham. Max and Barnaby stood there, chewing the cud, not in the least bit bothered. But, let's be honest, they've seen it all before once or twice (Mr O got helicoptered off to hospital after a hunting accident a couple of years ago). I was very proud of Max for not being scared.
The fireman came back and said we could go through, as the ambulance pulled away. Suddenly the car was revealed, on its side, up against the wall. We managed to walk the horses past the car and the fire engines and straight into the farm gate. Home at last. All a bit scary and strenuous.
This had put quite a delay on our activities and Mr O said we couldn't really go to Hobbycraft. We rang Lisa, but there was no answer, so we got cracking on the mucking out. Zak was totally sweated up as he'd been in on his own once Missis had turned her horses out. The original plan had been to come back, turn Max and Barnaby out and then for Mr O to ride Zak, but all that was scuppered by the delay. We dried him off and turned him out, where he went mental, galloping up and down (and looking rather stunning to be honest!) and rolling, which set everybody else off and they were all filthy when they came in.
So eventually we were able to set off and pick Lisa up, then whizzed off to Sheffield, with Caelan in the car seat.
I dispatched Mr O to a different shop so Lisa and I could concentrate. She was so helpful, as I took along the book which has the picture of what I want to make for the christening of our niece's baby girl in March. She helped find the aida fabric and all the colours I would need which we had to translate from the DMC number to the Anchor number. I also bought some pink gingham which is the background for the cross stitch (I'll show you when it's made and all will become clear). She bought a stunning kit that is the wording to Footprints with a beautiful background of a beach. It'll take ages to do, but will be well worth it.
I also bought my cardmaking magazine, which had a free set of beautiful papers with it, plus some blank cards and some plain paper and card. I've also bought some fabulous vellum to play with, so we'll see. Loads to inspire me, anyway.
We dropped Lisa off and came home, and I got in the shower as I'd booked us a table at the village pub for a Burns Night celebration. I switched the iron on and all the power went off. Marvellous. Mr O and Pongo spent ages walking backwards and forwards, checking everything, trying things out and discussing wire and fuses. By the time it was fixed we'd missed our slot and I had to ring and let them know we couldn't make it. Bit gutted really, but not the end of the world I suppose. We got a Chinese takeaway instead. It's not haggis, but it'll have to do.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Spike The Cat

It has poured with rain all day today. Missis kept her horses in. Barnaby looked at me as if to say, "Don't even go there," so I turned my boys out. Zak and Max were joshing each other as they ran up the field side by side. Then they both stopped suddenly, saying, 'Where the heck's Barnaby?' He was behind them, scoffing as much haylage as possible before anyone noticed. By ten o'clock, Barnaby was looking over the gate, saying, "For goodness sake woman, when are we coming in?"
Yesterday I accidentally trod on Tessa's foot as she was behind me when I came out of the stables backwards, pulling a full-up wheelbarrow. She lay on the sofa with me later on, and was struggling to get up, pawing away on the leather, until I realised I was laying on her tail and trapping her.
Today I was mucking Barnaby out, shoved the fork in and poked it straight into Tab, (cat) who had sneaked in and buried herself without me knowing. She ran off, but wasn't yelping. We managed to catch up with her and feel her all over, and fortunately she wasn't wounded. I felt terrible, I adore this cat. I did go and find her later and apologised profusely.
Then later I fed Climb (Tab's sister) stepped backwards and trod on her paw. What is the matter with me? The chickens see me and squawk, "Run for your lives!" and dash off in the opposite direction. Can't think why.
I've done all of Mr O's ironing. It took me an hour and a half. By the time I'd finished I didn't have the strength to do mine. It's amazing what you can decide doesn't need ironing when you put your mind to it.
I've finally had time to make a sponge cake with my new rubber tins (!) Lorayne said not to forget to increase my quantities, and she's right. I normally do what we call 6, 6 and 3 ie. six ounces of flour, sugar and butter, with three eggs. I increased it to 8, 8 and 4, but it still only just filled the tin. I'm going to have to go to 10, 10 and 5 next time. That's nearly half a dozen eggs in one cake! It made a lovely sponge, though, but cooked much more quickly than normal. I was lucky to catch it before it burned, as usually I can just put my timer on and leave it, but I could smell it was ready. I didn't have to grease or line the tins either, and when I turned them upside down, the cakes just fell out. Amazing. I put jam in the middle and dusted the top with icing sugar and it's gone down a treat.
Aren't a lot of blogs utterly beautiful? I have just found one called Marmalade Rose where she has invited people to commit to twenty minutes of crafting every day for a year. Pop over there when you get time, it's a lovely blog. I have joined the 'Twenty Minuters'. If you have ever watched Black Adder Goes Forth, you'll know why the title makes me laugh. I shall tuck myself away amongst the truly talented and hope nobody notices me. But at least it's a start, isn't it? I don't need much motivation actually, I am finding it totally addictive. You know I am doing a little bear which will be made up into a valentine's card for Mr O? I sit here sewing it secretly in the afternoons, and can hear Mr O pull up in the car. But there's time for a few more stitches before he walks in. Two more stitches. I can't put it down. Tessa stands up, stretches and walks over to the back door, wagging her tail. One more stitch. The back door opens. I shove the cross stitch back into my little tin, slam the lid on and walk slowly, slowly into the kitchen. "Hello darling, how was your day?"

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Lost in Confusion

I'm going to have to be honest. I intended this blog to be a diary. But there's a lot more I'd be willing to write in a diary than I'd be prepared to risk writing on here. Because it's a bit obvious it's me, isn't it? I mean, there's the photo of me with my profile, isn't there, not to mention the photos of the horses.
But if I'm going to be honest, I'm going to have to mention Missis a little more, aren't I? And telling the truth may sound like I am criticizing them, which I don't want to do. And as far as I know, Missis doesn't read this, but if she does...
This blog was meant to be about us, and people that came into it were just incidental, but if I don't explain things, the situation will become even more confusing than it is now.
So... I had an opportunity to confront Missis about what she said yesterday about selling her horses. It transpires that Pongo moans that she is spending so much time with the horses at the weekend, and not with him. I told her my worries of yesterday, and she said not to worry, they'd always intended to have tenants, and she needed us and wanted us here. So that's a relief.
Then she said she might have liveries, to give me an income. What on earth does that mean? That she would still sell her horses and have liveries instead, and I would muck out? Because, to be honest, I wouldn't have the strength. To have DIY'ers who would obviously muck out for themselves? That would be good. To have cows? Hmmm. What work is involved there? I'd have sheep any day, though, that would be lovely. And more chickens. But it isn't my farm.
And I think that's part of the problem. They are very intelligent people, but they have so many choices, and take a great deal of time to look at the pros and cons of everything until they are exhausted and don't do anything. I'd have common sense over academia any day.
The main thing, as far as we are concerned, is to put a manege in, so that Mr O can ride in the winter. We are not people that only want to ride for six months of the year. If they have liveries they'll have to have a manege, otherwise they have no real facilities to offer them. But that doesn't mean it's a priority for Pongo and Missis.
That's the problem I think, in a nutshell. They are very good at starting a project, but hopeless at finishing it. The drive isn't finished, the stables aren't finished, the field drainage isn't finished. If even one of these was completed they would have something to show for their efforts. Otherwise, what can they really say they did in 2009?
Jesus was the 'author and finisher' of our faith, wasn't he? Thank goodness He didn't do half a job! Genesis says Noah 'finished the ark'. Imagine if he hadn't! Finishing what you started seems like a strong theme to me.
Missis says she doesn't know which thing to do first, whether to pay off the mortgage or fix the roof on the house. I had a giggle later on, as I came across Proverbs 24:27 which says, 'Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.' Mmm. A word to the wise, I think.
So I have decided not to worry, and trust the God that got us here. If he can do this, he can do anything. I will just make the most of each day as it comes. And if it stops, it stops. There will be something better to move onto.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Don't Panic!

I feel like I am writing an entry for The Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy. 'It had 'Don't Panic' in large, friendly letters on the cover'.
Missis came out this morning to say that her aunt died on Friday, but they didn't find out until Monday. I feel so sorry for Missis, because although her aunt had cancer, she wasn't really about to die just yet, if that makes sense. I don't know how else to put it. But then, in a way something that's even worse: Missis' dad is on holiday, and was beaten and mugged by a gang while he was out there. He is 63. My heart goes out to him, as it was his sister that died. He is on his way back now, a week early.
So I coped with all of this this morning, then decided to ride Max, and I have to say he was very good. I was soooo nervous. I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but it is exactly this time last year that I had a bit of an accident. I won't go through it all again, but basically I got lost, Max bolted with me and jumped a five-bar gate. I was hauling on the reins, thinking, 'It's a barrier, he'll stop,' but he didn't. He cleared the gate, which must have looked amazing, but I got thrown off from quite a height and ended up in hospital with internal bleeding. I don't want to think about it really, and it put me off jumping for most of last year.
So, as I haven't ridden since Christmas, I was a little apprehensive, as you can imagine, especially as I was on my own. I actually decided to use my common sense and walked him down to Jolly Farmer's so I could use the manege. I decided if he was going to be silly, he could be silly without me, but actually he was quite calm, strode out purposefully and had a good look around. Busy Bee was there, so I caught up with her briefly, as of course I haven't been down there over Christmas because of the snow.
I went in the school and got on and actually Max was very sluggish. I trotted him and he was fine, but has lost a lot of fitness. He is still quite supple though, which is good. He kept standing still of his own accord, as if to say, 'I think we'll have a little break mum, don't you?' I didn't push him, as the whole point of going was to just have a look around and get used to things again, and so that I don't ache too much in the morning, either. I love the way I've been saying to people, "I don't think he'll be very fit now." There's nothing wrong with his fitness at all!
I came back up the lane and Jolly Farmer was approaching on his tractor, just as Ben the dog was running towards us across his garden. I thought it might spook Max, if Ben appeared and started barking, and Max would jump in front of the tractor, so I made him stand still and wait for the tractor to go past. He kept fidgeting about in the road and wouldn't get on the verge, so in the end I got off and had a chat to Lucy Goosie while I waited, who I also haven't seen for ages. Max was quite annoyed and kept shoving me, saying, 'Can we go?' Honestly, that horse has the manners of a goat.
I walked him up a bit further, where there is a handy bench, so I got on and rode home, but he suddenly decided now was the time to be energetic, and started spooking at patches of snow in the field. Not even on the road, but in the field! I was determined to end on a good note, so I got off him again and led him the rest of the way home, so all in all the whole thing was more lead than ride, but at least I've done it, and can get on him again tomorrow.
This is because we have decided to enter the Indoor TREC competition at the end of January. It should be hysterical. There's no orienteering phase, just the control of paces and the obstacles, which should be a giggle. I am only doing it for a laugh on Max, anyway, as he will spook at everything, but Barnaby could do quite well. I am so looking forward to it, though. Better go and start the lorry up.
And then in the afternoon a very strange conversation took place. Missis asked me how you retire a horse. I said you could contact the Veteran Horse Society or Bransby Rest Home, but I think in the current climate they'd be full. When I asked why, she said she was going to retire Polo. I am astonished. Then she said she would also sell Fudge and just keep Lindy. I am appalled. What's to stop her selling him as well, he's not even her favourite horse, technically he's Pongo's horse, but he hardly ever rides him. Where does this leave us? They wouldn't have any motivation to build a manege, which we were promised, and why bother finishing off the new stables, or draining the field properly or anything? Why not just sell up and buy a normal house, like they had before? I am seriously worried. I have sold my house to move here, and given up some things I adored and would have kept. These people have the power to make us homeless, and I am not impressed. This was my reservation in the beginning.
I am going to God, on bended knee to pray this evening. Mr O is very taken aback as well. We've only been here a year. If there aren't horses to muck out, they won't need us here, will they? Grrrr, stress!

But on a lighter note, I made a card last night, as a thankyou to Lorayne for the cake 'tins'. (Can't really call them tins, can you?) It's the first card that went really well, and I am very pleased with it. I scanned it in, but for some reason it won't open on here, and I've put it in the envelope now. Fuming! It's also helped because I am going to Hobbycraft again on Saturday (so excited!) and have much more of an idea of what I'm going for, eg more card blanks, as some friends have just become grandparents for the first time, but I couldn't make them a card as I don't have enough blank cards sitting there ready for me to whip something up. I also need lots of plain card and paper as I used the water colour pencils again, which worked really well this time, but would be better on card than paper. I'd better go now and finish off my cross stitch, hopefully I'll be able to show you those. I might be better off taking a photo of them, but my scanner has never let me down before. A strange end to a strange day...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

I've risen with the lark this morning and rugged up and turned all the horses out. Lindy hasn't had a rug on for the last few nights, as his own central heating system has kicked in so he is sweating with a rug on. Even Max and Barnaby are warm with just a thin stable rug on and a thin turn out on top.
I've been out in the very wet field to put piles of haylage out for everybody, then turned the horses out. I do let the chickens out soon after, but they aren't keen to venture out while it's dark, which it certainly is today, and there is a thick mist everywhere. I can hardly see the horses in the field.
I have had all six horses to do, and managed it well, considering I've had to change all rugs and put cream and powder on Lindy and Polo. Missis did make 12 haynets before she left though, which have been an absolute godsend. Nearly all the beds needed a bale of straw in, but I'd still finished by 12.30.
The Ladies Who Lunch strolled over around 9.30. They remind me of Aggie and Kim, two very annoying women who present 'How Clean is your House?' on Channel 4. They go into someone's disgusting hovel and clean it up for them, only to find quite often when they return six months later that the property has returned to its former glory. Anyway, I won't be at all surprised if the chickens suddenly start suggesting that a mix of Epsom salts and vinegar, applied vigorously, will bring a lovely shine to each stable floor. And they know what they can do about it, too.
I had Seven and Nine after school. They asked to play with the playdoh. I am surprised children of their age still want to play with it, but each to their own. They're quite creative actually. I suppose if it was modelling clay instead of playdoh, nobody would mind, would they?
I am still reading Charlotte's Web to them, after the break for Christmas. We seem to have taken up where we left off with no problems. I am doing a brummy accent for Templeton the rat, and a very prim 'Alexandra Palace' voice for Charlotte. Nine stares at me in fascination when I do this, because 1: I'm quite good at it (I've always been able to do accents) and 2: I assume that Missis doesn't do voices when she reads to the boys, but I may be wrong. Nine does drama, so maybe he is storing things up for his first audition, you never know.
I have ordered some stamps and toppers from a brilliant website which came today, so I am going to have a little play once I've written this. We are finally getting post again, after no deliveries for two weeks.
This means my Christmas present from Lorayne has finally arrived. The parcel was very light. I knew she was getting me some silicone baking tins, but the last thing I expected was this:

I really had to think about the best way to show you what they're like. I think it was the colour as much as the texture that was such a shock. Apparently they go straight from freezer to oven, and obviously, because they're floppy, it's very easy to turn your cake out. You don't need to grease them, either. I can't wait to bake something now. Lorayne says they make a much better cake, so we'll see. Have you ever used them? If so, what do you think of them?

And in case you've ever wondered why my blog is called Chickens In My Kitchen, this should make it clear:

This is Henny Penny, always hoping for food, with Roxy peeking round the corner, seeing if it's safe to come in. They've walked through the stables, through the garage and arrived at the side door. You can run ...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Something's Got to Give

I seem to be spending far too much time on the computer! I've given it a lot of consideration, and I think Facebook is the main culprit. I haven't got time to sit and trawl through loads and loads of inane posts every day, especially if it's being particularly slow. I know I was looking for something more indepth, and facebook definitely isn't it. Plus it's impossible to control what people post, and some of it really doesn't bless me. I think it came to a head yesterday when I got a friend request from a total stranger who is twelve! I have got a friend on there who is that young, but I know her and her mum quite well from the Your Horse forum. But a total stranger, picking me at random, honestly!
Facebook's been altered fairly recently so it shows you the groups that people are joining, presumably to generate more members, but some of the younger girls join such random things, that you can't possibly want to post to. I am also about level 40 on Farm Town and don't play it any more. I do still play Farmville, but I find it a bit surreal to have elephants on your farm. It's okay for a bit of fun, but I've had enough now really. I do quite like Country Life, as you do more on it, but after a while it just becomes mouse clicking, which is just going to give me RSI, isn't it? So I think some serious honing is in order as:
a) I still need time to read books, which is much more satisfying.
b) Very soon I'm going to be back to riding, and I made the mistake of spending too much time on facebook last summer, something I do not intend to repeat this year.
c) I'd rather be doing cross stitch and card making. There aren't enough hours in the day as it is.
d) I absolutely love blogging. It is much more satisfying as you get a deeper insight into people's lives. I really think that's what I was looking for when I got into facebook.
e) I need to do more Bible reading, which will benefit me more than any of the above. I used to be very good at having my Bible time, but it's gone a bit loose lately. Time to get back to it, I think.
f) I do homework with Seven and Nine, and it takes a certain amount of research to get things done properly.
I think that's fairly clear then, a bit of a cut down on facebook is in order. Think how many hours you spend trawling through posts, doing farm games, checking all the gifts people have sent you etc. I have joined a cross stitch group on there, which I will maintain, but get rid of as much dross as I can. Spring must be in the air!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Busy Days

I am thoroughly enjoying the site of the emerging earth. I could get down and kiss it quite frankly. I feel as if we've been through a tremendous ordeal and survived, although more snow is apparently forecast on Wednesday, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
We went to the shop to see if I could get this month's edition of Cardmaking magazine, but it wasn't there. I was nearly lured into buying a cross stitch magazine instead, but resisted. Then we went down this alleyway as a shortcut, and there on the right was a craft shop. Why have I never noticed it before?
I went in and got chatting to the nicest woman ever. I asked her loads of questions, and she was absolutely brilliant, and explained so many things, including how to do decoupage, which I really want to do. I have come away with a box to store my embroidery threads in, as I am doing a little unicorn with a white body and silver grey mane. It's extremely difficult to tell the two threads apart, especially when you've used a few and only have a couple left. This box lets you separate each colour out and wind it onto a bobbin, which I did when I got home. It's made me wonder if Lisa's got one, as I could pick one up as a present for her. It must be next week we are getting together to go to Hobbycraft.
I also bought some stickers relating to a Christening, which is brilliant, as I've been able to find lots of 'New Baby' stuff, but no actual Christening things, so I can get on and make the card soon. I am getting a massive urge to make a card, so I probably will one day this week.
I bought some more wild bird seed, but they're not eating it half as quickly as the Bill Oddie stuff with the mealworms in it. Whoever thought robins would be so discerning? I have had a jackdaw at the table. I just caught sight of him as he launched off. It was like a Harrier Jump Jet taking off. The other birds looked a bit windswept, to say the least.
We went to Pop's Attic, looking for a welsh dresser. I am dying to get one, now Mr O has said yes. I used to have one years ago, and for some inexplicable reason, I gave it to Lisa. Why? Why? I'll be able to store so much stuff on it. I don't know if I can justify a brand new one, but one never knows, does one?!
We went to see Abby and the Flower Fairy. Abby looks a lot better, but you can see she is still in pain, poor thing. She isn't supposed to do anything for ages. We took the Winnie the Pooh DVD's Missis has given us, that Seven and Nine have grown out of. She didn't know which one to watch first.
I let Tessa out last thing while making a cup of tea for us both, and took it up to bed. I got in bed and started reading my book. After a while we heard a distant bark and wondered where it was coming from. Then I realised I'd forgotten all about Tessa and left her outside! Oops. She looked a bit miffed actually. Sorry dear.
And so this morning, Mr O rode Barnaby while I tacked Zak up, then he came back and rode him as well. He was all done for 9.30! He said Barnaby spooked at piles of snow on the floor (like they haven't spent the last few weeks looking at nothing but snow!) and the dog came out of Flag House and chased him up the road. Barnaby turned round and explained to the dog in no uncertain terms that he could 'go home!' I am so glad I didn't ride Max, he'd have had a fit. I am going to walk him down to the school on Wednesday and ride him in there to see how stupid he's feeling before we do anything too ambitious.
We went to church, which was brilliant as usual. You never know what's going to happen there, I think that's part of the attraction. We have Communion every week. And they read from The Message quite a bit and it sounds very good, I might see if I can get a copy.
We came home and mucked out on what felt like a spring day. I am glad we put the horses out in their mediumweight rugs instead of their heavyweights, they'd have been sweating.
Soon it was time to take Seven and Nine to the cinema. It was Seven's birthday on Friday. I gave him his card, the first one I've made myself that I've dared to send to someone outside the family, and Missis said it was excellent, which made my day. As Seven's birthday is so near Christmas, rather than buy more toys, I said I'd take them to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeaquel, which they've been dying to see. Mr O had a good look to see if there was anything he could go and watch (anything at all???) but there wasn't, so he had to sit through it, too! Actually it was very sweet and quite funny. I want a chipmunk of my very own.
We took the boys to MacDonalds afterwards and bought them a Happy Meal, which happened to have a chipmunk in it, then brought them home. Quite a good evening really, and the first time they've been out with the two of us. They must be quite tired as they had tennis and drama in the morning, and Seven's actual party yesterday afternoon, but at least it gave Missis a chance to get some work done.
She is away for the next two days, so I've got all six horses to do and will presumably have the boys after school as well, so I hope I'll manage to get some crafting done. I am only doing the unicorn while Mr O is home as I am really doing a secret valentine cross stitch for him, but can't do it in front of him, can I? Quite frustrating.

Friday, 15 January 2010

I Don't Care What The Weatherman Says...

Well it's raining as I write this, and it's such a peculiar feeling, as if it's come after a drought, and feels utterly fantastic. The horses were sick of it though and were waiting at the gate for me at twelve.
We've had some fun and games getting them in lately. On Wednesday I got Max and Barnaby and was quite happy to come back for Zak, and Missis got Polo and Lindy, so I thought she'd leave Fudge to wait, but she suddenly offered to take Zak in as well. Zak walks in very well with Polo, so I said yes. I opened the main gate and walked through, seeing Missis behind me, and carried on walking round to the stables. When we got inside Barnaby suddenly whipped round behind me and I couldn't think why. Missis came in laughing guiltily. Fudge had run out of the field behind her, without a headcollar on and not wanting to be left on his own, but had overshot the stable entrance and ended up in our garden! Barnaby must have heard him and wanted to go and investigate. It did occur to me that Fudge might knock over my birdbath or sundial, but he soon came round to see where we all were. I could imagine his little face squinting through the window to see us and tapping on the glass with his hoof. In the end he came back round by himself, and I held onto his rug and guided him into his stable. Such excitement!
Then yesterday, nobody wanted to come in, and they all stood there looking at me, as if I'm some sort of idiot. So I nominated Max, and went into the field, put his headcollar on and led him in. This aroused all sorts of interest, so when I got back, I held open the electric fence and called Barnaby in. He came into the holding pen, but instead of standing there and letting me put the headcollar on, he began charging round and round in a circle. He looked in a foul mood, and I knew what he was going to do. Sure enough, as he came round again, he went straight for the electric fence and jumped it, but caught a back leg on it, and snapped one of the fence posts. He took everybody off for a good gallop round the field. Fudge just stood there in amazement, so I put Barnaby's headcollar on and brought him in, then went off to find a spare fence post.
I went back to the field, where everyone was bucking and leaping and generally being silly, and took the fencing cord off the broken post to attach it to the new one. Barnaby came into the holding pen to watch me, staring at me very closely, then went over and picked up the broken piece of fencing in his teeth and started waving it about, as if to say, "So! I broke this did I? You ought to have stronger fence posts, then, didn't you?"
Then when I'd finished he came and nudged me, saying, "Are you taking me in then, or what?" I had to laugh. What was all that performance for? I put his headcollar on and he ambled in with me, as quiet as a lamb. Every so often he just needs to remind me who's boss, that's all.

I love this photograph. Zak looks as though he's got the upper hand for once and seems to be saying, "Look Barnaby, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way!"

Thursday, 14 January 2010

No Star for Flower Fairy's Wand

It's hard to write this. While I was busy writing about mucking out and taking nice photos in the snow, unbeknown to me, my youngest daughter Abby (21) was rushed into hospital with extreme abdominal pains. Mr O came home from work, and we turned the car around and drove straight back to the hospital, to find out what was going on.
At the time, they weren't sure whether it was a burst appendix, or an ectopic pregnancy. We managed to get to Abby's bedside just before they took her down to theatre. Lisa had obviously been there for some time, as well as Abby's partner Duane. Abby was tearful, and in obvious pain, despite the medication she was being given.
As you can imagine, we had been praying all the way there, and sat in the day room while she was in theatre, continuing to pray.
It transpires she did indeed have an ectopic pregnancy, and her tube was removed before serious damage could be done. They'd said she'd go down for a quick procedure, but I've had a lapiroscopy myself, which was supposed to take ten minutes and ended up being an hour, so I knew it wouldn't be quick whatever happened. In fact it was two hours before she was wheeled through to the recovery room.
Duane is new to all of this, but I'm afraid we've seen Abby go into, and come out of, theatre far too many times in her life. She had cancer as a child, and was miraculously healed. One day I'll tell you all about it. All the memories came flooding back.
I never cry in front of my children at these times. I know when Abby was fighting the cancer, the one time I cried was the only time she was frightened of what was happening. I also had a revelation that it wasn't me that was in pain, it wasn't me that was suffering, and that my job was to be strong for her, and I was.
So I cried all the way home instead. The operation went well, and she'll be fine, but please pray for a rapid recovery, physically, and emotionally, as she comes to terms with what's happened, as indeed must I.
They say it won't affect her chances of having more children, but I am keenly aware that we have lost a brother or sister for my Flower Fairy. So sorry, darling heart.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Full Monty

I have been thoroughly absorbed in tales of how horses are kept in different countries. I had an Australian penfriend years ago who said it was always so warm there, her horses never came in and never had rugs on. So I thought I'd go into a bit of detail about how we do it here.
First of all, it's quite acceptable in England to have horses that live out all year, but I think I'd want a stable in case my horse ever got ill or injured, which has certainly been the case with us, as Barnaby broke his pedal bone in 2008 and Zak got a tendon injury. They were both on box rest for a year. Plus lots of people, especially on the Your Horse forum say their horses love to live out in all weathers. Well that's fine, but my horses are kicking the gate from 2pm, to let me know they want to come in!
So all my horses have a stable each. Our stables are quite unusual because the building was originally designed, by the previous owners, to house a swimming pool. Then planning permission was denied, so they had to fill it all in. So it looks like a giant lean-to from the outside,
and the inside was built by Pongo and Missis' dad to hold six stables. We are having new stables built in the barn, but it'll be a while before we move in there. The partitions have to be really strong, as the horses will get down and roll, and the walls have to be strong enough to cope with this.
The stables are nice and big, bigger than the ones we had at the old place. They get plenty of fresh air, but no draughts, and the shutter goes down at night.
At our old yard all the horses were on shavings. I really liked it, as it made a very clean bed, but now our horses are all on straw (much cheaper and very warm, but you're not supposed to use it if your horse has a tendon injury, as they shouldn't be dragging bedding around on a bad leg, which is inevitable with straw). Obviously it's a lot more dusty than shavings, which is why I always turn my horses out when I muck out.
But I've got used to straw again since we've been here, and there is an inexhaustable supply, so I can make a deep bed, at least a foot high for each horse. I love knowing the horses are knee deep in bedding. We know they lay down to sleep, as they leave a massive indent in the bed, which is clearly visible in the mornings.
So the horses go out into the field straight after breakfast, and the task of mucking out begins.
First of all, everything comes out, haynets, feed buckets and water buckets.
In order to muck out properly, you'll need one of these for straw:

one of these:

and one of these:

My horses are all slightly different, but the basic routine is the same. Firstly you take out all the droppings on top of the bed, and put them in the barrow. Then you go through the whole bed, taking out any further droppings, and throwing all the clean bedding up against the walls, by which time you are down to the wet bedding, which you fork up and put in the barrow. Then you sweep the floor and by rights you should leave the bed up to air while the horse is out. I think it's a brilliant idea, but the floor very rarely dries in this weather, plus you've got the job of coming back later on to put the bed down before the horse comes back in, which is a pain. Missis has got rubber matting, but I can't stand the stuff, especially if you don't take it out every so often and clean underneath it.
Next you've got the bit that lazy people like to skip! You have to go round the banks, against the walls, and turn all the straw over onto the centre bed. You find loads more droppings by doing this, and really fluff the bed up. You can look at the bed before you start and think it will need another bale of straw in it, but by the time you've done the banks you find you've got tonnes of straw to make the clean bed with.
So that's the next thing. You have to fork all the bedding back into place to make a nice, deep bed, full of clean straw. I put a new bale of straw in every other day, to keep the bed topped up to a decent depth. Most people put nice high banks round the three sides, to stop the horse from being cast, and to prevent capped hocks. I now know from experience that banks will not stop a horse from getting cast. Let's face it, a few wisps of straw are not going to stop half a tonne of horse from rolling over, are they?
So your finished bed should look like this:

(The cat isn't absolutly essential, but if you've got one in your bed, it's a sign that you've done it properly!)

For some reason, we are obsessed with sweeping the front of the bed into a dead straight line, and I smile when I do it, as I know Max will be coming in very soon, and will totally ruin it, but there we are. Self discipline, I guess.

Then the horse's haynets go in. We put them at the back of our stables, so there is no mess outside the stable. When the dust settles, you can put the (scrubbed) water bucket back in and fill it.

And while we're on the subject of waste, each full barrowload has to be tipped out onto the muckheap here. We burn ours when it gets too big.

So that's it. Each stable takes me about 45 minutes from start to finish. I'm not half as fast as I used to be, but I am still thorough. I can't turn a blind eye to droppings, they have to come out. So my stable is clean and dry and ready for my horsey to come in and trash it again. And tomorrow I'll be back out to do it all over again. The horses are in at night from November until very early May. Everybody loves May. We get a lay-in then!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A Hunting We Will Go - Not!

I've realised there's been no hunting round here for weeks. Our farrier came on New Year's Day and said that the Grove & Rufford met and hunted on foot on Boxing Day, instead of their usual cavort round Retford. The Readyfield cancelled their New Year's Day meet at Osberton as the ground was so bad. It looks as though the High Peak hunted on foot as well. What happens to your subscription if you've paid and it's cancelled because of bad weather? You still have to pay hunt staff and feed hounds, don't you? It's a lot of money to kiss goodbye, I think. At least if you go Bloodhounding you pay as you go.
Everybody is moaning about the weather. It seems we are all more or less in the same boat. Even if you have a manege, it doesn't mean you can ride in it, and for some people the track is so slippery leading to the manege you can 't walk a horse along it anyway. Some people can't turn their horses out, and one friend has had to put her horse on full livery because she can't drive to the yard. I guess I should count my blessings then. At least Max is just outside and I can go and see him whenever I like, and feel his warm breath on me and hear his whicker of greeting.
We have, unbelievably, had more snow over night.
It came to me yesterday, as we drove round, and more strongly today, that it's like living on a giant Christmas cake. I feel like I'm wading through lots of icing! The pond outside looks like a perfect wedding cake, with snow perfectly shaped on it, and the statue standing on the top.

(But by the time I took this, Nine had rearranged it somewhat!)

There was thick fog everywhere when we turned the horses out this morning. There was a sheet of the black plastic haylage wrapping up against the fence to the left of the field gate. Max saw it and had an absolute fit over it, but I managed to keep hold of him while he dithered about his course of action. 'Run sideways into mum, or run for the gate and hope the monster doesn't catch me?' I just stayed calm with him, and once in the field he turned to snort at it, then realised he was wasting valuable eating time, and ran to the nearest pile of haylage for support. They didn't stay out for very long today. They'd had enough by eleven, and came in to munch on hay. We gave Max the camomile Likit on Saturday. He ate it in just under four minutes. I think that may be a record. Barnaby still has his, and it's been hanging there for a week. My darling, gorgous, greedy little horse.
The school, to our astonishment (but Missis' relief) was open. It meant Missis had to walk down there, but I dare say it was worth it for a few hour's respite. The weather is worse today than it was on Friday, so it doesn't make much sense. I have spent the day ironing and washing the bedding, thrilled that Missis is at home all week, so I will only have my horses to do. I still have tack to clean and loads of laundry. Where does it all come from?
I am also thoroughly enjoying 'The Queen's Fool' by Philippa Gregory. I am so glad I discovered her books last year. It looks as though it's going to be about Lady Jane Grey and Queen Mary, so we'll see what unfolds.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Birds of a Feather

It's funny, you know, but before Christmas I really felt a word from the Lord. Not one of those earth shattering ones that you know you will have to stand up and say in church, but a quiet whisper, a hint, a clue, just for me. I felt the Lord say that this winter wouldn't be all about horses, and that I would need something else to do. And not something that required tonnes of commitment (like a college course) but things I can pick up and put down at will, without affecting anyone else.
So I think it was an instinctive response to that, that made me look into all this cross stitch and card making, not to mention blogging. And then, as you know, it began to snow, and I've hardly ridden since. To be honest, if I'd known, I wouldn't have bothered clipping Max and when the farrier came he could have taken Max's shoes off, and I'd have roughed him off for the winter. Never mind.
Maybe it's just part of learning how to live in the country. I need something to pick up and put down at will because I go out in the morning to turn out and muck out, go out again at twelve to get the horses in, and go out again at three to put night haynets up and feed round. I do go out again at six or seven, just to check everyone's okay. So something like cross stitch is ideal, although I then have to learn not to treat my proper job as an interruption to the things that were only meant as distractions in the first place!
By which I mean, that I am enjoying the cross stitch so much I don't want other things to get in the way. I finished another one yesterday, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was by far the hardest one I've done so far, quite a challenge. When you look at it you'll wonder why, because it's such a simple picture, but the back stitch was so hard. It's the first time I've done back stitch that didn't go from square to square, but halfway up the square. I'd decided these first few projects would be for training purposes, but as I've worked on them I've got quite attached to them and don't want them to go wrong and be ruined. Anyway, here is the finished product, and I can honestly say that I learned a lot this time.

My next project is a little bear with a love heart, but I may use it as a Valentine card for Mr O, so I'll have to work on it while he's at work, and just read and blog in the evenings, as I don't want him to see it, do I?

One of my other challenges was to photograph the robins that come to the bird table, and I'm pleased to say, here is at least one of them. I put it off because I don't think sitting outside in the snow waiting for an opportune moment is going to work. Mr O took a few through the kitchen window that came out fine, so I had a go today, and this is what I got:

Cute little fellow, isn't he, in his red waistcoat?

I have noticed daddy blackbird has arrived at the bird table, obviously trying to find out why BFMB is spending so much time here when she should be at home ironing. He obviously thought he'd stumbled on an 'all-you-can-eat' table and started tucking in. There must be ten birds dipping in and out at the moment. I don't mind, everyone is welcome.

We drove to Stable Mates. There is snow everywhere, and it's hard to see where road ends and pavement begins. You can't see the road markings either, which makes it feel a bit surreal. I bought myself a pair of the SSL boots that Mr O bought last week. I have worn them today, and they are amazing. I wasn't sure what to make of them, because they feel like smooth polystyrene (like styrofoam cups!) but I only had one pair of socks on and my feet were really warm. They are for riding in, too, so I'll give them a go, as I get cramp in the winter when I ride. I am usually ok on the ground, but in the saddle, as the cold air can flow round my whole foot, terrible cramp sets in.

We went to Tesco as well (needs must, n' all that). Everyone was in wellies. It was like being in Canada. I don't know if that's what influenced me, but I ended up buying huge Scotch pancakes, cream and maple syrup, which we had for supper. The maple syrup was gorgous - I've never had it before, but will certainly have it again.

We were late getting up this morning and hadn't finished doing everything before it was time to get ready for church, but Missis said she would finish off, so we could go, which is fantastic. The beds were done, and so were the haynets, so she only had to do waters, but as it turns out she brought the horses in at twelve as well, which is a real blessing.

We set off, and the snow was scudding across the road, making it very slippery. It was like someone squirting water from a hose at the car. It's getting a bit 'Arctic-like' for me.

The service was wonderful. I'm still not well, so I decided not to stand up, but just to sit down and enjoy it. We are very blessed with good musicians, and the worship was excellent today. Jim McGlade is our pastor. I love listening to him, firstly because he was born in Belfast, lived for many years in Canada, then spent several years in Dublin before coming to England. I've been trying to work his accent out, and I guess the nearest voice would be Liam Neeson. It's like having Aslan explaining things to you! The second reason, is obviously that his preaching and teaching is excellent. Both last week and this week he's said things that have applied to us. Sometimes after a service I'd like to go into a little room and spend some time really thinking about what's been said, not just rush home and carry on with life. I might spend my Monday quiet time on that.

And Mr O has spent the entire afternoon watching the most dreadful films he could possibly find. One was 'The Mouse That Roared' with Peter Sellers in it (can't criticize a man from Portsmouth, can I? My aunt used to be his cleaner!) and now we have 'Monte Carlo or Bust' with a very young Susan Hampshire (and Tony Curtis et al). These are just the sort of films I can't abide, but listening to the variety of accents is fun. I am amazed that there are so many television channels, and this is the best he can find. Tessa is curled up next to him, in total agreement with his choices. She likes something interesting to sleep through.

Still Snowing

I think it started snowing here on December 17th. So we've had snow for 22 days. I've never known anything like it. Even when I was a child we didn't have snow for this long, although we certainly had more of it. I can remember going for walks round Dean as a child (my grandparents' village) and falling off the verge into the ditch, and the snow being up over my head. And for some reason Raine and I have never understood, my mother never bought us wellies. What other more essential item of country attire is there? So my poor grandmother would put plastic bags over our shoes, and strap them up our legs, as we begged her to let us out to play. She must have been torn between the desire for five minutes peace, and the risk of us coming in with frostbite, and she certainly wouldn't want to face the wrath of my mother, the very one who hadn't provided suitable footwear in the first place, but who would not place the blame at her own front door. Imagine if the holidays were over and we'd been too ill to go back to school!
Talking of which, school has been closed all week. The boys are having an extended Christmas holiday, but were in fact looking forward to meeting up with all their friends, even if play was interrupted by bouts of spellings and learning times tables. They are bored rigid. What are you supposed to do if you're a working mum? Not everyone has parents who can stay off work at the drop of a hat, have they? Or grannies readily available to step into the breach.
And today, I've been weighed down with worry about the elderly, as I am wearing a hat indoors to keep warm, and I am forty-two. How do you cope if you are eighty, and your meals on wheels can't get through? And what on earth happens to the homeless? There aren't enough shelters, are there? In Scotland it's been -18 at night. That's the same temperature as in Moscow. How is anyone supposed to sleep rough in that?
Apparently people are panic buying, things like bread and milk. And farmers are throwing milk away because the milk lorries can't get through the snow to come and collect it. The postman hasn't been here all week. I am annoyed because my parcel from Raine hasn't arrived, and neither has my next DVD from Tesco. It's a shambles, isn't it? A friend of mine, who used to live in Norway, says this is bikini weather to them. How do they cope? What do they wear?
Not that I'm cold, of course, because I'm ill, and only have to muck out for five minutes and I'm sweating like someone with malaria. For some reason I am actually colder indoors than I am outside.
I turned the horses out this morning. They are quite happy with their routine of being turned out from eight til twelve, with hay in the field, then back in at lunch time for a good gossip round a haynet. I can't leave them out longer as there's nothing for them to drink. If I put water in the trough it freezes within half an hour. I have noticed them tasting and licking the snow, though. To them it must be like discovering the most enormous slush puppie in the world.
Max stayed with me at the gate, staring at my pocket, which means, "You've got mints in there, mum, how's about dishing a few out?" I never have mints on me. I am notorious for being mean with mints. I groped in my pocket and found... a penknife. Max leant forward and nearly swallowed it in his haste. In the nick of time he realised he has plenty of iron in his diet and doesn't require any more. He shuffled off, baffled, 'I could have sworn...'
When I got in, I turned my pockets out: penknife, phone, keys, hoofpick, oh, and a packet of Extra Strong Mints, well, who'd have thought it?
So at lunch time, I sidled up to him, and whispered, "You know the mints? Turns out you were right," and surreptitiously slipped him the goods. His day improved considerably after that, 'Told you I was right!'
I have been busy in the afternoons. Yesterday I managed to bake cakes without sneezing all over them. We are going to need cakes and biscuits to see us through, I think. But today I didn't have the energy to do anything, so I got a sleeping bag out, put the fire on and lay in front of the television, as I decided today was as good a day as any to watch The Duchess. Tigger came and curled up next to me. He does love me, but I can't help feeling the warmth of the hot water bottle was more of an attraction than the warmth of my personality.
I have been meaning to watch The Duchess for ages, but needed Mr O to be out of the way, as I didn't think it would be his sort of film, and I needed to concentrate. I wanted to see it, as Georgiana is an ancestor of the Duchess of Devonshire and Princess Diana, and of course Kiera Knightley stars in it. It turned out to be a beautiful and extraordinary film. Georgiana marries William, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who then has an affair with her best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and moves her in as his mistress, but won't let Georgiana go. I am amazed on two counts: 1: that it was even allowed to happen, it must have been considered outrageous, in those days and 2: that the current Devonshires were happy for the film to be made. I don't know if I'd like my historical linen to be 'aired in public' in quite such a way! The sets and costumes are breathtaking, Keira Knightley is extremely good in it, as is Ralph Fiennes as the Duke, and yes, I do see the similarities between Georgiana and Princess Diana, obviously. I might suggest Mr O watches it after all.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Whole Tooth

I was worried Missis wouldn't make it home last night, as so many airports were closed. She checked in at 4pm, got on the plane at 6pm, got back off at 6.15 and sat there waiting for the next flight. She got on another plane at 7pm, sat down for twenty minutes and got off again. Flight after flight was cancelled. In the end she was running from desk to desk trying to find a flight to anywhere in England. Eventually she got on a plane at 10pm that brought her to East Midlands Airport. She phoned her regular taxi guy from there, who came to get her. The main roads weren't too bad, but the driver got up the Matlock road, then dropped her at the top of Scalextric Lane and left her to walk the rest of the way, at three o'clock in the morning. Fortunately she only had hand luggage to carry. Unfortunately a grit lorry came past and knocked her off the road onto the verge. The driver got out and apologised profusely, asked her what on earth she was doing there at that time of the morning, and gave her a lift back to the farm. Poor woman! And she still got up at 8am to do the horses.
I've tried to think how to show you that we've had even more snow over night, but I'm afraid this is the best I could do.

I hope you can see all the icicles hanging off the stable roof!

Such a relief today to only have my three horses to do, as I have woken up full of cold, and nursing a sore throat. I have been sucking Strepsils all day. There is no Buttercup Syrup to be had.
But the real issue is that last night half of the wisdom tooth on the left bottom side of my jaw came out, and the remaining piece is very wobbly. I am going to have to find a local dentist, as mine is in Langold, which is miles away. It was very painful last night, but feels fine today. At least it's a wisdom tooth and not a front tooth. I hope we can get to a dentist in the snow, as they've just said on the BBC that it's set to continue for another ten to fifteen days.
I have finally taken down the last of the Christmas decorations, and stored them in the keepsakes box. There is just about room for them. It gave me a good opportunity to clean up. I love to spring clean straight after Christmas. The room looks quite big and bare, which I like.
I have also totally re-arranged my desk, so that all my card making stuff is sorted out into groups in the drawers. I love my desk, it is the centre of operations. I used to have a big wide desk at the old house, but I always prefer any item of furniture that has storage, and I can fit tonnes of stuff in here.

I've been experimenting with the water colour pencils. They are quite good, but it's a faff colouring in, then making it wet with a paintbrush, as the paper wrinkles. I used more pencil, which gave a better result, but it'll be a while before I'm prepared to use them on cards. I will still look for water colour pens like my magazine said. I can imagine them giving a better effect.
I finally plucked up the courage to make Six's card. I'm quite pleased with it actually. The stripes across the middle are ribbon, and not the one I'd intended to use, but I felt the colour scheme matched the toppers (the monkey and the bird) better. I wanted to personalise it, and put Six's name on, but as I am no good with transfers and can't find a suitable stencil, it will have to stay as it is.
I had great fun with my new scissors, until I decided on the design on the rectangle underneath the monkey. The light blue paper is textured. I realised I haven't got many 'boy' papers, so will have to search around for more when I get time. The main book of papers I bought is very feminine. I didn't realise until I got home, but it will all be used. Anyway, I hope he likes it. It's the first one I've been brave enough to make for someone outside the family.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


My first two days back at work have been very hectic. We had more snow on Sunday night, and it has snowed all day today. I was woken at 4am Monday because all I could hear in my half sleep was a horse banging the walls. I was so disturbed by this I woke up fully and went to investigate. Max got cast last year and I never heard a thing, so I have been very conscious of noises out there ever since.
I flicked on the light, and every horse rose to his feet (I can't apologise enough), but Lindy seemed to be struggling. I think he'd either got cast again, or he is rubbing his rug on the walls, trying to rip it off, as he is too hot, and he was certainly sweating. I swapped his rug for Max's under rug, as it's big enough to fit him (it was bought for Zak originally) as it's very thin (like Zak!). I kept the neck down. There were no more noises after that, so I think he was fine, and in the morning he felt 'right', not sweated up, but not cold either. It's worse than having kids. At least they can tell you they've got a sore throat, you can give them some Calpol and keep them off school for the day. The trouble is, we didn't clip Lindy last time he was due, because of the bad weather, then he went lame, so most of his woolly coat has grown back, and he is far too warm in a stable rug. This is a bit bizarre when it's -6 outside, but who am I to judge?
I crept back in, so as not to wake Mr O, and climbed in between the sheets, and dozed off into the most wonderful slumber, only to be woken at seven by the rooster alarm clock going off. For some reason I thought it was a Sargeant Major shouting at me, "Ten HUT! Stand by your beds!" and leapt up in horror to locate the clock and switch it off, no easy task in the dark. I was a gibbering wreck by the time I'd done it.
I am wearing wooly gloves to muck out in, as the handles of the wheelbarrow are so cold I can't carry it with bare hands. Eventually, of course, the gloves get cold and wet, and I have to take them off and find another pair. I keep scraping snow off the dustbin and the garden table, so I can put bird food out. I am worried about birds and animals dehydrating, and so I keep leaving little dishes of water around the place, but they soon freeze over. The robins (and BFMB) have been joined on the bird table by a blue tit, my favourite little bird. He looks very smart with his black collar and tie, a veritable Beau Brummel in fact, and has soon got the measure of BFMB. He sneaks up behind her, grabs a morsel and flies off again, before she even has a chance to lumber round.
Needless to say, now that everyone has gone back to work, the outside tap is frozen solid. I've had to fill water buckets from our kitchen sink and carry them through the garage to the stables. I've filled each horse's water bucket in the morning and then had to top it up again at night, so that's 36 water buckets altogether. I'm putting hay out in the field for Max, Barnaby and Zak, and making up haynets for Polo, Lindy and Fudge, who are staying in.
I nipped in to go to the loo, and as I came out, a shadow swept past my face. At first I thought it was a bat, but watched where it landed, and as it took off from my wardrobe, I realised with astonishment, it was a wren. I was momentarily flummoxed. It's not often a member of the Senior Service decides to share a bedroom with you, is it? My instinct was to try to catch it, but then I realised that if I opened the bedroom windows she would eventually fly out, which she did, being a bright girl.
I sent a text to Mr O saying, "There is wren in the bedroom." He is ex-Navy, remember. He quickly text back, "Get her to do the ironing." which is probably the cleanest comment he could think of at such short notice.
When I went back up at lunch time, there was another one. What on earth is going on? How do they get in? I hadn't even had the back door open, and had certainly not seen anything fly past me or through the kitchen or anything. Very, very peculiar.
I finished mucking Polo and Lindy out, and my next stable was due to be Fudge's, but my work was hampered because:

I decided to leave him in peace and move onto Max's stable instead.
I went out to meet Six and Nine from the bus at four o'clock. I was still standing there at twenty past. Lucy Goosie pulled up in her 4x4 and asked if I wanted her to go down and get the boys. Pongo had text me to say they would be on the bus, and no one had rung to say the situation had changed, and the next thing I knew, the school bus drew up behind Lucy Goosie's car. What a relief!
I started taking the Christmas decorations down, and blitzed the kitchen, but I have to be careful not to use up every ounce of energy on a Monday, otherwise I have nothing left for Tuesday, even if I go to bed early.
And today it has done nothing but snow. This is the first time the horses haven't wanted to go out. Correction - they wanted to go out, but as soon as they saw the weather, they wanted to come back in again.
Mr O went to work before the snow started and text me to ask what the weather was like here. I didn't know whether he meant he was going to stay in Worksop or try to come home, but they finished work at 4.30pm so people had more time to travel safely, thank goodness. Yes I want him to come home, but not at risk of his safety. But I knew if the old car could make it, this new car definitely could.
The boys went to school on the bus, but within minutes of their arrival Pongo got a text saying the school was closing. How stupid. So Pongo set off on foot to go and collect them. I am so glad he hadn't left for work, otherwise it would have been me sliding down the hill and hauling two children back up it through the snow.
It seems to have taken me forever to muck out today. I guess I've just got used to three of us doing it over Christmas. It doesn't help that the chickens are starting to prefer the stables to the barn, where their coop is, and can find loads of places to hide in the stables. I spent twenty minutes tonight trying to coax them out, sweet talk them out, bribe them out and sweep them out with a broom, all to no avail. They looked at me with their beady eyes as if to say, "You've got no chance, love." They were flying from stable to stable, as they know I can't reach them in there, until I finally resorted to rugby tactics, pinned them down one by one, scooped them up, tucked their wings in and carried them across to the coop and plopped them in. And of course, by the time I'd got the third bird over there, the first two had come back out. They were probably highly amused watching me run round like a headless chicken for a change. I was exhausted by the time I got indoors.
I am supposed to put in a Tesco order, but I've been very busy, and I seriously doubt they'll deliver in this weather. I'd better go on their website and check. The lovely girl at Stable Mates delivered the horse feed yesterday, so they'll not starve. I have powdered milk, and enough flour to keep us going with bread, so we won't go hungry either.
So while I'm typing this, Mr O has gone up to bed, and called down to me, "Do I have to share the bedroom with her, then?" and I've gone up to see a wren flying round the room again. I've realised it must be the same wren that's found a way in, but where? We don't open the windows because it's too flipping cold. Has she got a nest somewhere? She is not going to nest on my ironing pile, that's for sure.
And finally, I let Tessa out last thing at night, thinking she'll be two minutes, and she takes herself off for a little tour of the farm, which seems to be getting longer and longer each night. Our garden gate is always left open, so she strolls out in the moonlight for a while. Where does she go? What does she do? I ought to follow her tracks in the snow to find out. I suppose if you're mistress of all you survey, you can go where you like with impunity, can't you?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Shop Til You Drop

We put the horses out and mucked out yesterday. There was a little bit of snow, but it gradually increased until it looked like this.

And ended up pretty much like this.

The only one really enjoying it was 'Er Indoors.

Only she's, erm, outdoors, obviously.

The rest of us just trudged through the snow with barrowloads of muck. Mr O did the classic, he hauled his full barrow backwards up the slope, when the plastic handles pinged off in his hands, and he landed on his bum in the muck! Tee hee.

We decided there was nothing for it, but to go shopping. As you may know, I hate food shopping, I can't think of anything more boring. But there is nothing like a bit of equine shopping to warm the heart. We bought:
Black SSL (Shires) boots for Mr O. They cling to the top of your leg. As straw all over my kitchen floor is the bane of my life, any boot that keeps straw off your clothes and in the stable where it belongs, gets a big thumbs-up from me. They are very warm and waterproof, and you can ride in them, and the ones in Stable Mates were twenty pounds cheaper than the ones in Thomas Irving. I think I'd better get myself a pair, too, as even with two pairs of socks on, if I stand still for a while, my feet are freezing.
We finally found a pair of springy stirrups. Mr O already has these. The first time I used them I found it quite a peculiar sensation, but over this last year, I decided I'd really like a pair, especially for the distance rides, as they shock absorb as you ride, and relieve the stress on your knees and ankles, which will be wonderful....if I ever get to ride again, that is.
We had fun and games buying Likits. Max loves them and eats them in two minutes. They are like a solid block of sherbet, that you hang on a long string, and the horse has to pin it down to lick and bite bits off it. They come in important equine flavours like mint, apple and carrot. Mr O had to buy two holders, as only Max has one for some reason. We bought cherry flavour for Barnaby, who looked moderately impressed. (It is bright pink, a bit girly for him, I fear). Zak has got some weird flavour, like chamomile and saddle soap or something. It's bright yellow. He is an ex-racehorse, and has clearly never seen a Likit in his life. He shuddered when he sniffed it. Mr O hung it up for him near his hay net. The next morning, there it was, completely intact. He must have nibbled round it to get at his hay.
And I have managed to get completely the wrong sort for Max, the only horse that actually wanted one. His one doesn't have a hole in the centre, so I can't hang it up. He was gutted. I've had to chip bits off it, so that he could have a few chunks from my hand, but it's not the same, is it? I'll have to find a way to make it up to him.
I found a bag of wild bird seed in Wilkinsons, and had to buy it. It is 'meal worm and berry muesli' and looks good enough to eat. I cleared the snow off the table and the dustbin and put some out. Within seconds the birds were diving on it. It has been a good move to put out two lots as BFMB (big fat mama blackbird) is very greedy and possessive, but is obviously eating for four. She is quite aggressive to the robins, and pushes them off the dustbin, but I can remember feeling a bit like that myself when heavy with child.
I managed to make a sojourn to Arcade Crafts, as I wanted some blue ribbon for the card I'm making Six. They have some fabulous stuff in there. I was also looking for some water colour pens, as otherwise I am left with felt tip pens, which look very amateur. A woman was waiting to pay, and she overheard me, and held out what she was buying. She said, "Why don't you try these? They're really good." She had water colour pencils in her hand. You draw what you want, then go over it with a wet paint brush. I grabbed a pack. They weren't expensive, and I'll have a lot of fun playing with them.
I've bought several more cross stitch kits, so I'd better crack on and get them done, but I was a bit influenced by Mr O there, as what I really wanted was to do a project of my own, as I feel ready now. I'll have to wait until Lisa and I go together. She'll understand.
I have put an extra rug on Max last night, as it's been ridiculously cold. He looked like a Mitchelin Man. He looks about 15.2hh but when you peel back all the rugs, there's a little tiny 14.2hh underneath!
We had another couple of inches of snow in the night again. I led Max down to the field. He looked about him, thoroughly unimpressed, saying, "Is this it, then? Will it always be white now? I preferred the green stuff."
He chases Mr O round the field, when he goes to put hay out, like Donkey in Shrek, going "Pick me! Pick me!" Greedy toad.
So it's all back to work tomorrow. I am so grateful for Mr O's help over Christmas. I have to do six stables on Monday and Tuesday, unless there is so much snow L can't get to work. I am not sure that the school bus will get up the hill. It's very unusual for the road outside to get so covered in snow. I'm so glad we've got the 4x4 now, otherwise I'd be stuck indoors for ever.