Herefordshire Week 060: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 February 2021

dsfsd  <– yeah, got my scheduling out by a day. More tomorrow! [DONE!]

Briefnotes this week as I’ve spent most of Tuesday morning (and a good few hours on Fri / rainy Sat & Sun) working on a Secret Project for my dad’s birthday.

Spring is definitely on its way. We’ve lunched in the conservatory twice this week. YESssss. The camellia has a growing number of pink buds, and one brave bloom in a sheltered spot low down, and we have a yellow crocus out under the pear tree. Still waiting on the big daffodils to put in an appearance though.

Tuesday saw Day 2 of the Boiler Project, and a full house from Morgan & Cuss, redoing the gas pipe out to the LPG tank, backfilling the hole in the wall, removing the water tank from the roof, installing the pump – which has done the job, commissioning the boiler (and resuming the central heating) and showing Phil and me how to use the new controls. Very high tech!

Boiler Project: Complete
Boiler Project: Complete

KMCA Carnevale drinks in the evening over Zoom worked well on Tuesday but VWW didn’t fare too well on Weds and H and I abandoned Zoom and then abandoned the phone – connections were dire on both. It chucked it down all day – maybe that was the cause. Who knows?

Friday proved very productive: P and I decided on the taps, shower screen, mirror and paint plan for April’s Bathrooms Project; I settled up with Morgan & Cuss; had my physio telephone appointment and received hip / leg muscle strengthening exercises by email, which look remarkably like the ones dad got after his hip operation; hoovered, removed last of the water tank debris (insulation) from the loft and some flies (mostly Phil) and caught up with Charles before Pizza a la Phil (needs work).

Spent most of rainy Saturday at the computer, but we got out on Sunday morning and did the Tremorithic route, complete with squashed frogs on the way to Kerrys Gate and white stripes (indicating drains and drainage?) on the roads down from Cwm Hill. A bit drizzly at times, but we got home before the heavier rain set in.

White lines and drainage points
White lines and drainage points

Gorgeous weather on Monday, so I ended up going for TWO walks: Camp crossroads – Duffryn Farm – Cockyard – Quarrels Green on my own in the morning; and the Cockyard loop with P in the afternoon.

Here are the stats for the walks with Phil:

Tremorithic (Sunday)
Distance: 12.10km (7 ½ miles)
Elevation Gain: 262m

Cockyard (Monday)
Distance: 8.56km (5 1/3 miles)
Elevation Gain: 145m

On the gardening front, I also managed to track down last year’s left over seeds on Monday – third location lucky after “kitchen drawer” and “potting stuff in the garage”, “garden shed” turned up trumps – and added another lettuce base to the (microgreens) lettuce and carrot top I started last week. Not sure the carrot is growing, but the first lettuce is. It’s quite amazing.

Getting my microgreens going
Getting my microgreens going

Monday also brought a sensible COVID plan and schedule, with the familiar, apparently unavoidable, Boris boosterism. That said, I am all for the cautious evidence based approach – and wish we’d had the sense to do this last year, especially after the summer. I’ve already got a date in the diary for an outside coffee in Hereford on 12 March and a tentative long weekend in Pembs at the end of May… but the Annual Birthday Party won’t be taking place this March either.

An old invitation to the Annual Forty Acres Birthday Party

TV: Perseverance Mars landing live on YouTube (Nasa scientists hail Perseverance rover’s arrival on Mars with stunning images | Science | The Guardian), This Farming LifeHip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (Last in the series, on Queen Latifah, and it was my favourite), Justified, Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez (series 2, episode 1: Sir Arthur Evans, Knossos & the Minoan Civilisation. Aka rich, white men + Empire).

Podcasts: The Essay, History Extra, Witness History.

Photos: Herefordshire week 60 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-21.

Execution – S. J. Parris

Execution - S. J. Parris
Execution – S. J. Parris

Bruno becomes embroiled in the Babington Plot: a small rag-tag group of Catholic priests and young noblemen seek to “execute The Tudor” and to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne.

With spies, double agents, murders and secret codes, and a fair few BREXIT allusions on the way.

Publisher page: Execution – S. J. Parris

Herefordshire Week 059: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 February 2021


Until Monday, when it was a balmy 12C and I was able to take off a layer…..

It’s been a cold, cold week, so we made sure our bird feeders were kept topped up peanuts, bird seed and fat balls, and put a flower pot saucer of water out once the day got warm enough.

Both ponds froze and the ground was rock hard, genuinely “in the bleak midwinter “.

Two new arrivals tempted by the bird feeders – a male Bullfinch and a Redwing. No buzzard this week though.

Blackbird - Robin - Bullfinch
Blackbird – Robin – Bullfinch

I had a lovely icy morning walk on Tuesday, before knuckling down to work for the week.  A cautious descent into Abbey Dore with Phil, meeting  a new neighbour down at Yew Tree Cottage, past Tan House Farm and into Dore Abbey churchyard. Phil headed home and I took the footpath up to Ewyas Harold Common, then Tremorithic Road to Fair Oak Farm before dropping down to Bacton (the iciest stretch, as expected) then back via Riverdale to Abbey Dore to avoid the cold winds up at Kerrys Gate.

Fair Oak, with Hatterral's Ridge and Hay Bluff behind
Fair Oak, with Hatterral’s Ridge and Hay Bluff behind

Worked Friday on a big document automation project that had been eluding me for the past couple of weeks. A gorgeous sunny day, and I would rather have been able to get outside in spite of the cold.

But still.

Birds busy at the bird feeders.

And Imogen West-Knights’ account of “Lawyer Cat” in The Guardian made me laugh so much that I cried. Haven’t done that for a while.

Still cold on Saturday, it didn’t get above -1C all day, so we lit the log stove and hunkered down with reading for the day. Living the dream – really. This is what I hoped our Forty Acres lives would see more of. I’m finding it harder to get stuck into reading though – not sure if that’s COVID uncertainty or an iPad reduced attention span.

Sunday brought the end of the cold spell, and rain. We managed to get out for a walk in the morning (Bacton) after a catching up with Carl. The rain really got going in the afternoon so it was back to the lounge, log stove and reading.

Dale and his team turned up bang on 8.30am on Monday to start our boiler replacement project which also entails removing the cold water tank from the roof and the hot water tank from the kitchen. We hit a slight snag with low water pressure, but they can install a pump to fix that. They’re coming back tomorrow to finish up.

That will set us up for the plumbers to return in April to replace the shower in the en suite and main bathroom with MORE POWERFUL ONES! At last. We are planning to get a bigger shower enclosure in the ensuite, and moving the sink to make room for that. We’re also replacing the radiator with a towel rail one.

Spending money – what’s come over me.

Our mature handyman came over on Monday afternoon and we put the slabs down in the greenhouse and bolted together the frames for the staging (greenhouse jargon for work bench / shelves / tops). I’ve still to nail the wooden slats together, but that should be OK. And I think we may need to shove a bit more sand under some of the slabs to eliminate wobbles.

Then I have to work out what to plant….

TV:  It’s a Sin (heartbreakingly wonderful), This Farming LifeHip Hop: The Songs That Shook America, Lady Macbeth, Young Adult and started season 5 of Justified.

Podcasts: The History of EnglandIn Our Time, The Missing Cryptoqueen.

Photos: Herefordshire week 59 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-14.

Herefordshire Week 058: Tuesday 02 – Monday 08 February 2021

First daffs. A lot of wood wrangling. Grumpy grief.

A good start to the weeknotes week, with a walk down to the Abbey and back with Phil first thing on Tuesday – spotting a deer below Stockley Coppice. Then out into the garden to haul wood down to the bonfire for the rest of the morning, Got through the hazelnut tree main limbs (firewood to be) and two piles of apple prunings (bonfiring to be).

The buzzard is still visiting most mornings, looking for worms etc down by the willow stump, which we can see from our bathroom without scaring it off. Sometimes it perches on Jean’s wisteria trellis, just behind the yew tree, or on a bare branch of the gangly bush behind the coppiced hazelnut. Not managed to get quick enough to get a photo before s/he flies off.

There are yellowy-green buds on the daffs in the garden by the bird feeder tree and plenty more green shoots coming up through the grass. Having to be very careful not to walk on them – every now and then there’s an ominous crunch!

Heading out on Sat to relocate the apple tree prunings to the quarry, I spotted the first of the small daffs by the train is in bloom. And we have a primrose in the orchard. Spring is here!

Primroses in the Orchard
Primroses in the Orchard
First daffs!!!
First daffs!!!

As is Storm Darcy – not quite the Beast from the East of 2018, but definitely cold, cold, cold – and quite a wind chill. No snow, apart from the occasional stray flake.

I was snow shoeing in Northern Italy / Southern France when the 2018 BftE hit. Great snow, great trip! Talking of trips, I caught up with Val on Saturday evening and she’s hopeful of getting to Nepal in November, although where will depend on their COVID and tourism recovery circs. She’s written off Peru this summer.

Another winter lockdown special social week – VWW Weds, Family Zoom Thurs, chat with Tom and Jo Fri, Val sat, Carl Sunday and Jane Monday. As an introvert, I find the idea of calls / Zooms tiring, but they’re usually OK. One to one is easier, more than that and I unconsciously slip into host mode. Phone is better than Zoom too – don’t have to think about my facial expressions and where best to sit to use the tech.

Very, very grumpy on Friday morning. Phil soaked up a lot of anger and frustration. On top  of a baseline of grief and the intense work week, I added two large chunks of admin which I knew would be annoying to complete, and so they were.

Setting up the LED / Just Giving Campaign page for Just Giving Campaign page for Val’s Huayhuash Circuit Challenge  took over an hour of trying to upload the mandatory campaign image using Safari and Chrome on my Mac, and my work laptop too – Chrome and Edge. NO joy anywhere. Eventually got Phil to try on his Mac. Success. I suspect it’s ad block settings on my mac and security settings on my work laptop.  Creating the blogpost on the website was quicker: Val’s Huayhuash Circuit Challenge 2021.

I then embarked on my Nth attempt to complete Scottish Powers FIT change of ownership form. MPANs, MCSs, FITs, Export Meters, Import Meters…. WHAT DO THEY ALL MEAN??? Having emailed Scottish Power to ask, all I got back was they have two MCS extensions on record for here. No explanation as to what these two new numbers actually were. I eventually worked out that the “record” must be dad’s. Fortunately dad has a very organised filing system and had already given me the papers relating to the installation here – where I spotted one of the MCS numbers on an MCS Certificate (who knew?) and when dad dug out the MCS certificate for Dinedor, lo and behold, there was the second number. Both certificates show the address, so why SP can’t see that they’re different installations is beyond me.

Felt better after doing the Cockyard Circuit in the afternoon, and chatting with Tom and Jo before we tucked into the second of the reduced M&S pizzas for dinner. 89p – down from £5.50!!! Loosemores love a bargain. Phil’s back on Friday Pizza Duty next week.

Spent Saturday outside dragging more tree cuttings down to the bonfire. Another grey day.

Sunday morning saw me spend another happy couple of hours moving / lopping the walnut tree trimmings. Cold, but sheltered. Then back inside for elevenses – coffee and stollen bites sat by the log stove.

A quick walk with Phil down to the Abbey and back before lunch, then an afternoon sat by the fire reading, chatting with Carl and a bit of online shopping – we’ve treated ourselves to winter gardening gloves (Ejendals Tegera 295 Waterproof Thermal Work Gloves), roofing panels to repair the log shed, a boiler suit (lugging lopped branches usually means my clothes get muddy / greeny) and are pondering treating ourselves to a small chainsaw / pruner…. Peeled 8 bulbs of our Christmas garlic plait to freeze. Who knew you could do that? Domestic bliss.

Bonfire wood piles.....
Bonfire wood piles…..

Monday – another cold day. Pottered inside the morning. Big shop and library click&collect in the afternoon. A bit of snow, and a cold week ahead:

Cold week ahead
Cold week ahead

I listen to Radio 3’s The Essay series, and they’ve just had a week of essays called “Odes to Essex”. They’re only 15 mins each.

Metropolitan Essex: Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg on the borderland between London and Essex that fuelled his childhood imagination.

Washed Up in Essex: In the next in a series exploring the joys of Essex, AL Kennedy takes on a watery journey through the rivers, mudflats and reedbeds of the county she calls home.

The Refusal of Place: Celebrating the joys of Essex, surely the most misunderstood of counties, writer Lavinia Greenlaw takes us back to the formative landscape of her childhood.

Brightening from the East: In the next in a series celebrating the joys of Essex, surely the most maligned of counties, social historian Ken Worpole explores Essex as a place of retreat and refuge.

The Essex Way: In the last programme in a series celebrating the joys of Essex, surely the most maligned of counties, writer Gillian Darley explores the unsung delights of Mid Essex.

I’m not sure we’ll even manage to get to WON this summer.

TV:  The Serpent. Grand DesignsThis Farming Life (would love a series set in the Welsh Marches). Plus next episodes from BBC Four’s Winter Walks and Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America and Film 4’s American Animals.

Podcasts: The History of England, History Extra, In Our Time and David Tennant Does a Podcast With….

Photos: Herefordshire week 58 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-07.

Herefordshire Week 057: Tuesday 26 January – Monday 01 February 2021

More spring flowers. First lambs. RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Lessons in lighting the log stove: Sometimes it only needs 1 match, but sometimes it takes 10. Or more…

Trees trimmed – and a delay in publishing this week’s post due to spending a dry Tuesday morning stacking the hazelnut’s bigger branches for firewood and moving the prunings to the quarry.

After starting off the day with a sleety walk to Kerrys Gate to catch the post, I spent a frustrating morning on Tuesday trying to work out how to complete Scottish Power’s “correct form” (not the one they link to from the FAQs and tell you to complete, Oh no.) for transferring the payments for the solar panels on the roof to us.

Finished the work week on Thursday a bit too frazzled, cursing those American colleagues who seem oblivious to time zones and part time work patterns.

Friday – morning blues, despite the sun. Felt a bit better after walking to Kerrys Gate and back. Spent the rest of the morning confined to barracks waiting for a GP phone appointment, so cleared the rose bed. A good morning’s work. Very therapeutic.

Spring flowering continues: cyclamen, double snow drops, aconites, daffs – with a hint of yellow at the bud, bluebell leaves in the orchard dell, catkins on the hazelnut trees, camellia bud – the first hint of pink!

Daffs - with a hint of yellow at the bud....
Daffs – with a hint of yellow at the bud….

Did the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over lunch, results were as follows:

Long tailed tit – 7
Blue tit – 4
Great tit – 4
Coal tit – 2
Robin – 1
Chaffinch – 1
Blackbird – 1
Nuthatch – 1
Greater spotted woodpecker – 1
Pheasant – 1

We usually see more chaffinches and blackbirds, and 2 woodpeckers isn’t uncommon, ditto for robins. Totally forgot to include the rooks in the trees in the sheep field.

So yes, we’ve won over the long tailed tits… it took them a year to discover the bird feeders, but now there is No Stopping Them! They do bully the blue tits though.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results

Dad called round just after lunch for a socially distanced drop off of more bags of sand for the greenhouse base, and to unearth some chainsaw “things” from the garage. Spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the lounge, with an early evening FaceTime with Friends.

Bargain M&S pizza for dinner – Phil got a week off.

Managed to log into the LED facebook account surprisingly easily on Saturday morning, which meant I was able to catch up on posts and to announce “Val’s Huayhuash Circuit Challenge”, the sponsored walk and climb LED is running to in February and March. A good call with Carl rounded off the morning, and I spent the afternoon reading in the lounge, after finally managing to light the log stove.

Cold overnight and wet first thing on Sunday – we had a buzzard rootling around in the garden down by the willow stump. It seemed to be keen on the worms surfacing after all that rain. They roost / live in the woods over the road, and we see them flying quite often. But it’s the first time I’ve seen one spend this long in the garden. Amazing!

Spent the morning by the log stove (lit with only 1 match) accompanied by coffee and the LRB, and then a lovely Zoom with Emma. Lots to catch up on.

Early afternoon we did the Bacton Square in the snow then back to the log stove and reading.

Out on our walk, I’d spotted the first wild garlic leaves coming up alongside the road in Bacton, which is where we picked loads last year. I remember it being one of those occasions when I realised I was starting to feel we’d got past The Move and we’re starting to actually live here.

Monday. Grey day and cold, but fine for a long morning walk to Ewyas Harold and back: Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Tremorithic Road – Mill Lane – the Old Trout Inn – Dulas. Two Spring 2021 firsts en route: lambs and primroses. Narcissi coming up in the Dulas churchyard, but no buds yet.

No sign of Hatterall's Ridge today
No sign of Hatterall’s Ridge today
Lambs - alphabetically paired...
Lambs – alphabetically paired…

Richard, who does the bigger jobs in the garden, came for most of the day and cut back / pruned some of the trees, reducing the height of the walnut the gets in the way of the Skirrid view (although it stayed too grey to be able to check that!), removing the smaller main branch of the big tree down by mower turn, pruning the apple trees and the pear tree, and taking the last of the bigger branches off the still nameless “green shrub”. He also coppiced the hazelnut bush.

Hazelnut coppiced
Hazelnut coppiced

So I’ve now got even more wood to bonfire. Looking forward to that when we get a dry spell, maybe this weekend.

TV: Finished off The Newsroom, series 3, and started The Serpent. Much darker fare. Another Friday night Grand Designs but still lacking This Farming Life.

Podcasts: The History of England, History Extra, Witness History and The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Photos: Herefordshire week 57 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-01-31.