Herefordshire Week 048: Tuesday 24 – Monday 30 November 2020

Frost. Fog. Stollen. Greenhouse construction parts 6 & 7 – now with added glass.

I clocked up some TOIL time at work this week, working Tuesday and Friday mornings. Had my appraisal on Thursday. “Glowing”.

A chilly night Wednesday gave way to a cold and frosty Thursday morning, with a streaky sunrise over Garway. Gorgeous, so we went for a pre-work stroll over to Thistly Field and back for photos.

Frosty Morning, Phil on Thistly Field
Frosty Morning, Phil on Thistly Field

The fog rose up from the valleys and over our ridge overnight, settling in for what turned out to be a few days. And Friday was cold too, so I broke out the fatballs for the birds.

Fatball Friday Five!
Fatball Friday Five!

Phil and I headed back to Thistly Field for a walk after lunch – and more photos – doing the loop back via Wellfield. The dad we’d met out on Tremorithic Road last Sunday drove by and stopped for a chat. Lovely.

Foggy Friday, Thistly Field
Foggy Friday, Thistly Field

Following the fatball logic, Phil and I broke open the Mini Stollen at teatime.

Saturday was fog bound from the start, and I felt ropey with a tension headache that lasted most of the day. (No, I don’t think it was penance for Starting the Stollen before the Festive Season officially starts.)

Still, that didn’t stop me making three and a half jars of grapefruit marmalade in the afternoon. That made up for a slightly frustrating morning trying to turn my Forty Acres 2020 blogposts into a Blurb Book.

Leaving the marmalade setting in the conservatory, I finished off Lost Acre sat in front of the log stove, and discovered that getting cold fingers and feet during the morning meant a return of my chilblains.

Sunday morning and lunchtime were spent working on the greenhouse construction, getting almost all the glass in, which was very satisfying.

Greenhouse construction, part 6
Greenhouse construction, part 6

Over a late lunch, we’d also spotted two Long Tailed Tits visiting the bird feeders. Magic! Then, in what was left of the afternoon, I did the Cockyard walk enveloped in fog. Enjoyable all the same. And I pulled the barbed wire out of the hedge / style into Thistly Field.

Tasty Hot Pot for tea, with more of The Good Lord Bird (not gripped).

Monday, the fog had finally – FINALLY – disappeared.

More greenhouse in the morning. Got all the glazing done plus we discovered a box with all the drainpipe kit in. A water butt is planned… Still got to build the “staging” (or shelving, I’d call it) that goes inside.

Greenhouse construction, part 7
Greenhouse construction, part 7

Afternoon: Bacton backwards, then bramble snipping, barbed wire winding and some hauling of big branches of brash to the bonfire.

Evening: Caught up with Hazel and Helen over Zoom. It was St Andrews Day after all.

In COVID news, we’re in Tier 2 from Wednesday/Thursday (confusion reigns as to when, precisely). I’d be more aggrieved, except that there are only 3 places in Tier 1… and two of those are Islands.

Telly: DNA (a great final episode), Intelligence (for light relief), Educating Greater Manchester(the big reveal), 12 Puppies & Us (who knew there were so many different types of Spaniels?), Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge (we both now REALLY want a pint) and The Good Lord Bird (still not gripped).

Podcasts: more History Extra episodes plus some Shedunnits.

Photos: Herefordshire week 48 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-29.

Herefordshire Week 047: Tuesday 17 – Monday 23 November 2020

The last of the lettuce.

A couple of good walks.

Greenhouse construction part 5.

I spent some of Tuesday morning weeding my recipe folders before heading out for a walk. I had a good seven mile leg stretch to Kerrys Gate – Stone Street – Cockyard – Duffryn Farm – Camp Crossroads – Wellfield.

Low cloud but warm, and the hedgerow shrub that has the funky pink flowers now has red / orange berries, which means I now know it’s a Spindle (aka Euonymus europaeus).

Pink flowers + Red / Orange berries in the hedgerow = Spindle tree
Pink flowers + Red / Orange berries in the hedgerow = Spindle tree

Opening the downstairs curtains first thing on Friday, I saw a buzzard down by the log store. After a microsecond Mexican Stand Off, it flapped off slowly up the slope and towards the rope swing. Amazing.

The rest of Friday was a getting things done day: fixing a Contract Express glitch at work first thing, then into Hereford with Phil for a big shop (Aldi, Sainsbury’s, ASDA), flu jab, petrol and library click and collect (by the skin of my teeth, having run all the way there from the ASDA car park).

Got the wood burner going as dusk fell for a lovely FaceTime with Janette followed by Blackberry G&T then pizza plus Pubs and Puppies.

G&T - It's a small bottle, not massive glasses ....
G&T – It’s a small bottle, not massive glasses ….

On this day in 2019, we were crossing the 5,780m Amphu Lapsta pass in Nepal – crampons, ice axes and ropes on the way up, carabiners, ropes and abseil descent.

Our porters start their descent from the Amphu Lapsta
Our porters start their descent from the Amphu Lapsta

Caught up with Rachel and Carl on Saturday – a grey day. Hoping to get down to Wilts to see them in December.

Sunday provided a pick-me-up: a gorgeous sunny morning and Phil and I did a smashing walk up to Kerrys Gate – Bacton – Tremorithic Road – Cwm Hill – Abbey Dore. Super sunshine and technicolour colours.

Horse, Fair Oak Farm
Horse, Fair Oak Farm
Phil, Tremorithic Road
Phil, Tremorithic Road

Home for lunch then an afternoon of bonfiring the brash followed by an early evening FaceTime with Jenny over in Silicon Valley.

I picked the last of our lettuce and dug some ash from the wood stove into the soil of the “herb bed extension”. Felt like A Good Idea. Who knows….

A quick trip into Hereford on Monday morning to deliver hotel toiletries, chutney and boxes to Hereford Food Bank, and more Greenhouse Construction in the afternoon.

Greenhouse construction, part 5
Greenhouse construction, part 5

We got the bloody doors on. Next up: installing all the glass….

Telly: more of series 2 of Educating Greater Manchester, Intelligence, DNA (top tip from Catherine), plus the aforementioned 12 Puppies and Us (sob) and Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge.

Podcasts: A whole slew of excellent History Extra episodes plus dogs on The Essay. I think someone’s trying to tell us something….

Photos: Herefordshire week 47 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-22.

Herefordshire Week 046: Tuesday 10 – Monday 16 November 2020

More greenhouse construction. Christmas Cake made. Sorting out and reading.

Overdoing things.

But, the sheep are back!

Phil and I did the Bacton square on Tuesday morning, bumping into the farmer who has the sheep in the field opposite and adjacent to Forty Acres. A good chat. He’d bought the sheep at Hereford market – they’d come from Builth Wells – and raises them over winter to sell on in the spring. He’d lost eight to acorns, down by Abbey Dore Court.

The sheep are back....
The sheep are back….

Afterwork Zooms Tuesday (Rach), Wednesday (VWW) and Thursday (family). I’m trying to stop myself working through to 8pm and a commitment to a Zoom helps, although I did spend the first 15 mins of Family Zoom finishing up an email…..

Too shattered for my planned FaceTime with Janette on Friday, and Jenny’s work foiled our catch up on Saturday.

A lovely surprise parcel arrived on Thursday. Completely unexpected. But we now have 6 posh wine glasses – thanks Cat 🙂

More greenhouse construction on Friday morning, getting the frame up and the roof beam in.

Greenhouse construction, part 3
Greenhouse construction, part 3

I made our Christmas Cake in the early afternoon and I realised I was overdoing things when I blew the motor in Jean’s old Kenwood Chef and then hit my head on the worksurface getting out mum’s old Magimix. I do have a bad habit of wanting to get everything done, and not realising when I’m done in.

Christmas Cake
Christmas Cake – Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake / Classic Christmas Cake recipe

So, cake in the oven, I settled in the lounge with a book. Having finished Madeline Miller’s excellent Circe, I started on Ben Aaronovitch’ s False Value lots of fun in the high tech world of Silicon Roundabout. And there was time for a chat with Val too.

Pizza for dinner, and we took a break from our current TV staple (Gomorrah) to watch some more factual fare courtesy of the BBC, starting with the first episode of 12 Puppies and Us (educational – we are still playing fantasy dog, and I’m still holding a candle for a collie….) before moving on to Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge.

Spent a rainy Saturday sorting stuff. Phil and I worked through the “junk shop” piles in the spare room – bundling clothes hangers, rationalising the wardrobes and clearing bubble wrap and boxes. Much more under control.

I then tackled my personal filing, reintegrating the letters etc that have arrived here since January with the filing folders that came from London in September. I now have another box of old papers to burn. I also came across a notelet that my mum sent to “Aunty Carriage” right after I was born, which ends “VERY SUPER” 🙂

Jobs done, time for more reading in the lounge.

Decanted my Blackberry Gin, and had a small taste. It is a lovely dark purple but doesn’t taste very brambly….

Blackberry Gin - Decanted
Blackberry Gin – Decanted

More rain on Sunday, which foiled our plans for a walk in the morning but we managed to get up to Kerrys Gate and back in the mid afternoon. In between, I chatted with Tom, read and pottered.

The day’s highlight was a St Andrews’ Ladies Zoom organised by Helen W complete with Quiz. Smashing. I’m really hoping we’ll manage our weekend back in St Andrews next May.

Greenhouse construction part 4 on Monday morning doing more work on the roof, preceded by a walk to Wormbridge where I spotted the red brick farm sells its spare free range eggs. Handy.

Greenhouse construction, part 4
Greenhouse construction, part 4

(Not really visible, but we got the first bit of glass in – the window / vent in the roof.)

We also got a quote for the loft insulation/boarding out. As Jean says, we’ll have to get used to “Herefordshire Time”.

In Nature News, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching the small birds visiting our bird feeders, and we can get really quite close. We’ve now got Coal Tits accompanying the families of Blue Tits and Great Tits, plus Chaffinches and Robins, Blackbirds and greedy Greater Spotted Woodpeckers.

The Fieldfares seem to have flown, with Starlings (I think) roosting in the Oak Tree in Kiln Field (aka where the Sheep Field). No sign of the cock pheasant that used to strut around the place. Perhaps he had too close an encounter with a car….

Coal Tit at the bird feeder
Coal Tit at the bird feeder

We are still making good use of the Usborne Spotter’s Guide to Birds, which is definitely the best of the bird identification books we’ve got here.

Photos: Herefordshire week 46 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-15.

Herefordshire Week 045: Tuesday 03 – Monday 09 November 2020

Greenhouse construction commences.

Frost. Fog. Lunch al fresco.

A bit of a mixed week.

Managed my first longer walk along the lanes for what feels like an age on Tuesday morning. Kerrys Gate – Bacton – Tremorithic Road – Cwm Road – Abbey Dore. Beautiful autumn colours and lovely views of Hatterall Ridge, The Cat’s Back and Hay Bluff.

Morning walk: Autumn tree tunnel
Morning walk: Autumn tree tunnel

At the junction of “Bacton Road” and Tremorithic Road, just as the Black Mountains come into view, I spotted this sign:

Morning walk: Fair Oak Horse-Powered Cider
Morning walk: Fair Oak Horse-Powered Cider

So, a visit to Fair Oak Horse-Powered Cider is definitely on the cards for when Catherine, and other cider lovers, visit. And then on to The Bridge Inn at Michaelchurch Escley for food.

First frost on Wednesday morning:

First frost
First frost

And a pre lockdown fish & chip take out from The Old Stables and dinner with dad and Jean in the evening. A chance to chat. Back via Asda and Tescos. The shelves not bare, but back to no bread flour….

The second lockdown started at 00.01 on Thursday. Roll on December.

One small “personal plus” that’s come about due to COVID is that working from home has ended up working really well, partly because although I was an anomaly in January (had to get the OK from the Chief HR Officer over in NY to be WFH on a permanent basis), come the end of March it was the norm, and has been since then. So that has really helped. Plus – touch wood – the wifi is holding up. Who knows when broadband will actually make it to our stretch of country lanes. We can see cables (they’re strung alongside the phone lines up on BT poles) within 10 mins walk in either direction – so close!! Who knows why our bit of road in between the two didn’t get done. There are plenty of houses all the way along. Anyway – so far so good.

A misty morning on Friday so I was able to tackle various bits of admin as I waited for the mist to clear and the grass to dry off so that I could mow and clear the paths of leaves.

I finished sorting out my work paperwork and office. We still need to put stuff in the roof but I am feeling like I’ve got through a few of the more annoying jobs on my to do list. And there’s more chance to do things other than unpacking and sorting.

I also emailed various friends to let them know we are staying and with our “new” address. If you’ve not got it and want it, let me know. It’s been really nice getting updates back by return. Lots of 17 year olds and talk of driving lessons! SEVENTEEN!!!

Strong sun cleared the mist over the course of the morning and it was warm enough to have lunch outside on the patio – in November.

Lunch al fresco
Lunch al fresco

Almost like being on trek…. This time last year I was in Nepal, and we trekked from Panggom (2850m) – Najingdingma (2730m) via the Pangkongma La (3174m) and the Inkhu Khola / Hinku Khola river crossing (2028m). I know I would be really missing doing a big trek this year if it weren’t for all the novelty of our first year at Forty Acres. (We don’t have 40 acres by the way, in case you were wondering.)

After a slight delay (I discovered the mower battery needed a bit of a recharge) I spent the late afternoon mowing, continuing on into the twilight. I’d spent the delay bonfining in the old quarry. As my dad would say “A very satisfying afternoon”.

Phone calls and Zooms with Rachel and Jane making plans for the coming couple of months, and a sociable Friday FaceTime with Simon & Susa. More catch ups lining up for the coming weeks.

We started the greenhouse construction on Saturday morning, making good progress: site selected, post holes dug, base made plus side and end frames. It is like putting together a giant Lego / Ikea kit.

Greenhouse Construction, Part 1
Greenhouse Construction, Part 1

Finished off the mowing / leaf clearing / compost raking in the afternoon.

And AT LAST the US election result. Relief all round.

Very, very foggy on Sunday.

Walked to Camp Crossroads and back on Monday morning – more beautiful colours after a foggy start – and then concreted in the greenhouse posts. Weedkillered the drive and around the house foundations, and lopped some of the brash down in the quarry ready for another bonfire. Still masses to do.

Foggy Morning
Foggy Morning

Ended up succumbing to an early afternoon nap. Probably a good thing.

Photos: Herefordshire week 45 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-08.

Herefordshire Week 044: Tuesday 27 October – Monday 02 November 2020

November already.

Greenhouse delivery. Pizza with neighbours. Office swap.

MORE unpacking – but the end is in sight….

… unlike COVID: the second England-wide lockdown announced (eventually).

My birthday / staying greenhouse from dad and Jean was delivered on Tuesday afternoon. It comes flatpack so now all we need to do is build it. Dad’s happily perusing the instructions.

The Greenhouse has arrived
The Greenhouse has arrived

We need more insulation added to the existing 100mm in the loft and want to get the “extension” section boarded out so that we can use it for storage, and on Wednesday evening a local property maintenance man came to take a look. A much more positive experience than the home energy solutions team. So, fingers crossed for a good quote and timetable.

Other admin: The box of “cottage folders” wiped down and shelved, and the folder of 40A instructions manuals deduplicated (with dad’s input). Landlords insurance sorted, eventually. Dore Abbey crockery returned. Paper form completed to get online patient access at our local surgery. Shower upgrade recommendation / quote pondered. Phil fielded a few calls from Frank Harris – keep your fingers crossed.

Dore Abbey Crockery
Dore Abbey Crockery

A sociable week – VWW on Wednesday, Zoom with Helen and Hazel on Thursday, tea and hot cross buns at Dinedor on Friday morning (after returning library books and trundling around Asda, hence HCBs) and then catching up on the phone with Steffi in the afternoon.

The highlight – novelty! – was having our neighbours from down the road up for pizza on Friday evening. A late night, and two bottles of red between three. Not quite WW standards, but better than I would manage on my own.

And two more Zooms over the weekend – with Hazel and Cat on Saturday, and Rachel (and Carl) on Sunday.

The weekend’s main event was scheduled in as “sort office”, which morphed into “swap offce”.

New office
New office

As the nights had started drawing in, and the central heating is now on, I’d been rethinking our office allocation. I can’t remember why we initially decided I’d have the “small” bedroom and Phil the larger one (formerly home to dad’s train set), but 10 months in, we both agreed we should swap.

Phil uses his computer for work and play (and Pepys, which is a blend of the two, I’d say), and his office is home to his piano too, so he’s in his office a lot more than I am. Which means being warm while he is in there is important. As readers of my trekking posts will know, I “run hot”.  Phil doesn’t, so it makes more sense for me to be in the larger, colder room in the older part of the house.

A secondary reason is that the larger room doubles up as the spare room (or will do, when we’re allowed to have guests….) if we need to use the twin trundle beds. I’m at my computers less, ergo it’ll be less disruptive for me as and when guests need to use “my office” in “spare room” mode.

(As an aside, in these unprecedented times, I do wonder if it’s timely to revisit Pretend Office….)

Although it was a bit of pallaver moving the furniture around, which we did on Saturday, it did mean I tackled The Boxes over the weekend.

As well as more cards and postcards, this week’s rabbit holes included my primary school reports. There’s a theme:

Mary needs to take more care with her handwriting. (July 1978)

She still needs to practise her handwriting. (February 1979)

My only complaint is that the quality of her handwriting still leaves much to be desired, but doubtless she will rectify this in time. (July 1981, in Mr Whittington’s beautiful cursive….)

I’ve now got 3 1/2 plastic boxes ready to go into the roof. Once we’ve got the loft sorted …

Phil and I did the Bacton Square on Sunday morning, a little earlier than usual so not quite as sociable. Grappled with the boxes for most of the afternoon, pausing for a Zoom with Rachel accompanied by a cup of tea and a hot cross bun. The imminent COVID-19 lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time, but I’m determined to manage a trip to visit them both before Christmas.

Monday brought showers, with bright sunshine in between. I abandoned the idea of going for a walk and spent most of the afternoon making more chutney to go into Hereford Food Bank’s Christmas Parcels.

Telly: Roadkill (so so) plus the first series of Gomorrah. I didn’t watch the Lockdown press announcement.

Podcasts: History Extra (lots to catch up on)

Photos: Herefordshire week 44 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-01