Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn photos

When I was trying to get photos for the Autumn colours and the starlings I took quite a few others and thought it would be fun to post some of them.

The girls enjoying a nice dust (well more like a mud) bath, whilst listening to the Starling's chorus.

A Devon lane.
My favorite trees and view with more roosting starlings (if you can see them!)

The Birds!!

Well we are still under attack from the starlings, back in the Ash tree right outside our bedroom window at first light. When they flew off I nearly jumped out of my skin with the noise.

The farmer who tenants the land belonging to this house was here this morning, he only lives about a mile away and he said he hadn't seen any at all so was a bit surprised to see so many.

The appeal for them may be the corn field next to 'our' land which was harvested a while ago but probably has a lot of grain still in it. Quite why they like our trees and fields I have no idea. I have been trying to find out about Starlings and what they do and apparently according to the RSPB website many migrate here in the Autumn to spend the winter here. Maybe they, like the geese before them migrating out of the UK, like this area because as it is so agricultural there is quite a lot of food, and we are close to the Atlantic coast but far away to be a bit more protected. Whatever the reason I feel quite honored to see them and their displays are wonderful to watch. It is eerily quiet when they fly off to another field and I will miss them when they finally move on.

Friday, 30 October 2009

More Autumn observations

It has been crazy here today with scenes reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'! There have been thousands of starlings swooping and whooshing around in the sky. The displays are quite something else. I wish I could have videoed it, but without a video camera it would have been tricky! The other thing is the noise they make when they do a huge flypast or take off from perching in the trees, it almost sounds like thunder or one of those RAF jets that we sometimes get. When in the trees or trying to get in the Guinness Book of records for the most starlings on a telephone line, they chatter incessantly, love to know what they are talking about. When they sit on the wires apart from chatting they move around and one might fly off and then come back again, they seem to have a designated amount of space between each one so if a new one comes into perch they all shuffle up, it is very very funny!

Of course the other thing that is lovely to look at right now are the changing colours of the leaves and whilst off to work yesterday and while we had a bit of sunshine I tried to take some photos of the lovely colours. Sadly I was already late for work when I left so the pictures were taken rather hurriedly. Today it has been grey and horrible and the next week sounds like it could be very very wet and very windy so not good for taking photos and by the time the weather has settled down I wouldn't be surprised if all the leaves had gone.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A wild day and quiet night

Yesterday was pretty wild and I had to go up to Barnstaple for work in the morning. M suggested I take the 4X4 (the beast) but I thought I would be OK.

Well boy did it rain, alot, and coming home it did occur to me that the beast would have been a good idea; the Bideford to Torrington road was very badly flooded purely from run off and at one point I didn't think my little car would get through, thankfully it was OK, but an inch or so more of water and I don't think I would have done it. Nearer to home the little river near us had well and truly burst its banks and I did think about going to look at the Torridge (our big river) but decided that it might not be a good idea in my coupe!

In the afternoon the rain cleared and we had blue skies followed by a wonderful clear night, one of the clearest for a while, even clearer than a couple of nights ago when it got down to 2 degrees C.

The stars here are wonderful, we really have no light pollution at all and the milky way stands out too bright in the sky. Sadly no shooting stars, we used to see lots but there are a bit thin in the sky at the moment.

The thing that struck me last night was a distant whooshing noise, like wind in the trees but a long way away. We have noticed it before after heavy rains and the only thing I can think is that it is the sound of the Torridge in full flood in the valley below, it is quite a magical sound. We did think about going to have a look but decided that sitting in a nice warm house was preferable in the end. We did notice a couple of cars going down the lane and coming up the other side of the valley so presumably the Torridge was passable - we have only once seen it so badly flooded that even a 4x4 would struggle. Seems like there is more rain on the way so you never know we could get cut off! Its OK though we have a freezer full of food and if things get really bad there is a field full of cattle next door!!! (joking of course)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Autumn gardening

Well that's the end of the beans; the runners and french beans have been great and have lasted so long, but I think we have seen the last of them now, although I might be able to get one or two french beans for Sunday lunch at the weekend. The beetroot is now being used (as in previous post, however the borscht was a bit interesting), the tomatoes have all been harvested and the plants burned (in case of blight); the main crop spuds lifted (a little late, but we planted late) and again the green parts burned. We still have a lot of chillies indoors and herbs of course and the garlic has been planted and there are some spring green seedlings waiting to be planted out; but it is the end of the produce really.

As mentioned before we don't really know how long we will be here, but just in case we are still here next year we have started to prepare the bog plot (sorry veggie patch) for next year. We have actually designated plots for next year (last year they just evolved) and put old compost from grow bags (not in areas where we will plant tomatoes in case of blight) and some lovely stuff from the compost heap onto the next year plots and covered the whole plot with black plastic that we got free from a local farm; it is the stuff they use to cover the silage pits, so we are recycling plastic in a small way.

I am already browsing the seed catalogs and we have proper plans for what we will grow next year. This time of year is quite fun when thinking about veggies, on cold nights you can sit in front of the fire and dream of the lovely veg that you will eat next year and plan the planting. Definitely more french beans than we did this year and lots of shallots, brassicas, carrots (they were rubbish this year) and of course runner beans; sungold tomatoes (the best in the world) and lots more herbs, you can never have enough and no matter how many plants we have we always seem to run out of something.

Autumn food

Its that time of the year as the nights draw in and the wild wind blows that you look forward to real warming food.

A few weeks ago we decided that we wanted to 'feed' the freezer and looked around for good deals on beef and lamb boxes. The local beef, 'Devon Red Ruby' is lovely and lots of farms now offer boxes. In the end though we decided to buy our freezer 'food' from our local butcher; Bob the Butcher in Bradworthy; he is great and I am sure he won't mind me publishing his name, we cannot speak highly enough of his produce and service; his chorizo sausages are - well hot! and his beef, lamb and pork are wonderful. His gammons are (I am afraid to say when we have done our own before) the best. We bought a lot of beef and half a lamb and now have quite a bit of pork on order as when we 'fed' the freezer we realised that we were out of pork and the pigs don't go to 'market' until December.

Now we have the freezer full of meat what to do with it? Well one of our all time, cold night favorites is a good lamb stew. M is the best at this and if you have good meat you really need nothing more than onions, spuds, a bay leaf, some water and salt and pepper. Definitely comfort food, sitting in front of the fire with some nice bread to dunk in the juices. I like pearl barley too in it.

M is also very good at beef stews and did a lovely one last week, again a one pot dish in a big bowl, yummy. Next week it will be steak and kiddley pudding and I mean pudding (not that I need any help in the pudding area but I think the weather calls for it).

Not only have we a lot of meat in the freezer but I planted a lot of beetroot and we still have bottles and bottles of pickled beetroot in the cupboard. I am hoping for a wine recipe but in the meantime and trying my hand (as we speak) at Borscht, it smells wonderful and the colour is just indescribable (when it is finished I might try to take a piccy to post on here). The other thing I might do with some of the beetroot is to make a cake, but if this soup is any good I might make quite a lot and freeze it. We both work from home so are always looking for something nice for lunch. We also have a big squash courtesy of our friends, and have to come up with a plan, will it be a curry or soup? Not sure yet, we are considering our options.

I do love this time of year for food, you can have lovely hearty warming dishes which admittedly do need love and long cooking but I think that is the fun of cooking, I struggle with those dishes that only takes minutes to make. There will be a stir fry from left over pork later in the week, which OK is quite a quick thing, but again is warming, especially if M puts some of his hot hot chillies in it. This weekend I think it has to be leg (or preferably) shoulder of lamb with the left overs going into a tasty shepherds pie. Oh, must stop thinking about food getting hungry now. Chilli tonight retrieved from the ever hungry freezer.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and it's NOT raining

Well having moaned like there is no tomorrow about the weather, summer has finally come - bit late though.

On Saturday we went to Bude with our friend and his two daughters to get them out of Mum's hair whilst she did change over on their cottages. It was lovely and sunny and the girls had their bicycles to play on (the nearly 7 year old is now 'look no stabilisers) and had great fun riding round and round on a nice bit of concrete in front of one of the beach side cafes whilst we admired the view, the sun and the sea. It was almost hot and we ended up just in our t'shirts (having taken big jumpers with us). The nearly 7 year old (7 on Friday) was fantastic on her bike and so confident, she did end up going rather fast and had a small altercation with a picnic table, but being a big girl didn't cry at all (think I would have done).

Sadly yesterday was grey and drizzly again so I found some time finally to look at my selection of wines gently sitting in the cupboard under the stairs. Have been so busy recently that hadn't had time to look at them. Rather surprisingly the banana wine that I started in January was still slowly bubbling. I did rack it off into another demijohn and M kindly tasted some (I was worried in case it was neat alcohol). Actually it was very nice. It will be bottled probably in a couple of weeks as long as it really has stopped bubbling by then. It is also beautifully clear, which cannot be said for the tea, peach and apple wines which I also racked off again and will bottle shortly. Can see ideas for Christmas presents coming up!

Today it is lovely again, hardly a cloud in the sky and definitely warmer outside than in. The moor is clear and looks so close, although it is true that when it looks close enough to touch, rain is on the way. Forecast for the rest of the week though is like today and unfortunately I have a week of work ahead of me. We shouldn't complain really, both of us are very busy even with a recession going on. Hopefully it will still be nice at the weekend again and we can have another beach trip. We have been meaning for ages to do some more beach fishing so must check the tide times (best fishing on the beach is an hour or two either side of high water) and get some dinner in!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Autumn days

Well Autumn is on its way. The swallows must have left some time ago and we didn't even notice. We have also had great herds of geese, I say herds rather than flocks as there were thousands of them all filling up on fuel before their long flight south (there is a large field close to us that was fully of some kind of grain crop this year). It was almost as if all the geese in the North Devon area had decided to have a great conference in this field, like all the politicians at the recent party conferences they made quite a lot of racket!

The leaves are starting to fall and fill up the drains and the gutters on the house and the nights are drawing in. In fact the nights are drawing in so fast that we often realise that it is dark suddenly and we haven't locked the hens in - poor things, they do make a noise if you don't lock them up.

And it is getting colder, yesterday with the rain I was nearly tempted to light the wood burner in the office during the day as my hands were freezing. Last night the outside temp got down to below 5 degrees, no frost though yet as some of our friends have had who are a bit more sheltered. I wonder if we will be in for a snowy winter again!

Sunday, 4 October 2009


OK, this word means many things, but most commonly I think of it relating generally for a form of weather often encountered in Scotland, when it means 'dull, bleak, wet and dismal' and frankly there is only one way to describe the weather today and it is most definitely 'dreich'!

It is that fine rain that almost seems to get into your bones and makes you wetter than the heavy stuff. Good old Met office says sunny spells for here today - got it wrong again chaps. Actually I had to laugh this morning as we were forecast Highland mountain weather for tonight '22.00 hours - light snow showers, 9 degrees C' I don't think so. And this was on the BBC forecast and the Met office. Just looked again and it has changed to heavy rain shower instead. They are already having snow on the Cairngorms, you can see this if you look on the Cairngorm website and look at their web cam. Are we in for another snowy winter down south I wonder?

Off to light the woodburner, have a nice cup of tea and read the Sunday papers, can't mow the lawns and can't finish off painting the gate at the end of the lane which I started last weekend.

Edited at 15.45 to say that OK, the sun came out for a second and now we have another Scottish phenomenon - MIDGES, they are everywhere, getting in your hair and down your jumper, horrible, shame the swallows have gone! Have we moved suddenly or something and not noticed?! :(