Ice Storm

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Well, today we awoke to a totally frozen world. A hard hoar frost had glittered everything white, like an over zealous child making Christmas cards ... even the game netting over the chicken pen was white. The ground was solid, and yet another slow, hypnotic plod over the tundra ensued as we turned the ponies out - every other day is their lot at the moment - and fingers froze and Archie slipped. Again.
Rain was forecast for the afternoon, and the children anticipated the great thaw with great hope of riding. It never came. The rain came, but it was disguised as ice. Hammering down in great swathes.
Unfortunately my hard working husband was out on the top of an exposed Wiltshire hillside, moving sheep. I've never seen him or his dog come in colder or wetter. Neil having been dispatched to the bath with a mug of steaming tea with cooking brandy in it, Boo had to rub Fly dry with a towel, she also got a cup of tea (no brandy) and her dinner to warm her. Poor girl is exhausted.
I was glad that amid the baking, I had decided on stew and dumplings for dinner.
We had sent lambs off last week, and our regular butcher was unable to take them so close to Christmas, so we fell back on our second string, which will not be happening again. The meat was well butchered enough, but he made the biggest pigs breakfast of packing it all and we are still trying to sort it out now. My mince and stewing meat was in great 8lb bags, which the girls and I had to patiently sort, weigh, rebag and freeze today. The sight of the prime cuts of hogget was what put a good stew into my mind, and it simmered happily in the Rayburn with a heap of veg and a generous slug of gluhwein.
Mint dumplings were added when the lid came off, and though I say it as shouldn't, it was a delight.
We also achieved the sausage rolls, mince pies, and the girls made a gingerbread house.
Oh and we did the Ice Station Zebra thing again fetching horses in.
So now I'm ready for knitting by the fire, and a dvd of 'All Creatures Great and Small' and everything else can wait!

The day starts slowly without you.

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You do not bark to wake us up, desperate to go out into the garden. The tears have dried on my face, where I woke in the night, and thought you were too far away, out there in the cold, as if someone had pulled a thread in my heart.
No one wants to get up. It is so dark, so still, so cold. Fly curls tight in the corner of her bed. When we finally come down, she comes uncharacteristically into the kitchen, to look for you. She flops resignedly back down by the back door. Maybe you are outside?
The door to the utility room opens too easily. Your bed is still unslept in, as it always was, but now it is not because you have chosen, instead, to wedge the door shut. You are gone. You do not nose your bowl clankingly against the washing machine to point out that you have run out of water. The chicken feed sack stands unmolested.
I will never again hear your gentle, irregular bark. Your silken teardrop ears will never arch above your hopeful eyes as you present us with the merest twig in the hope of a game. When summer comes, as it must, the lawnmower will start, but you will not bark and spin in anticipation of the chase. You will not jump the puddle at the bottom of the drive, or roll on your back on the deliciously wet grass of a spring dawn.
The children whose prams you guarded are grown. So there are no more baby yoghurt pots into which to wedge your silly nose. You were here before them, a cornerstone, part of the foundation of a family. I cannot bear that you are gone. I know that before dawn, when the wind howls, I will hear your bark in my dreams, I will smile as if you were still here, and then. Then I will wake up.
There will never be another dog like you. You were a once in a lifetime kind of dog.

Rest In Peace

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Sam

April 10th, 1994 - December 16th, 2009

Now forever watching over his sheep, sleeping beneath a tree, in the field where they graze.



Sam came from a Rescue Centre in Wisbech. He had been kept, as a puppy, in a one bed flat, where he was left alone all day. He was taken out for a walk, once a week. (Presumably, like the Old Queen's Bath, whether he needed it or not) Unsurprisingly, he chewed the furniture, and at 10 months, he was in a wire cage in a rescue centre, with a deep mark on his nose, where he pressed against the cage, waiting for us to come, because he knew we would.

He came to us when we still lived in a caravan on a friend's farm. He came with us when we moved, he was with us when we finally got a LandRover, and seem to understand the status in conferred upon him, a working dog. He was with us when we got our first sheep, and he worked them like an old pro. He learned to work cattle. He loved to chase mice in the vegetable garden. He ran for miles, he earned his keep, as well as our gratitude, our respect, and our love.

He retired last winter, and sat by the Rayburn, shambling out for short walks with Boo. He got arthritis, and moving became harder and more painful. Still he would follow Neil wherever he asked him to go. Long ago, he lost the sight in one eye, (herding a strimmer) and eventually, the sight in the other eye began to fail. He still enjoyed life.

Last week, his back legs began to let him down. He stopped eating, and eventually, today, he didn't want to drink. He became confused. Neil took him to the vet tonight, and he passed peacefully away, beside his boss, where he belonged.

In the dark, and the fog, and the freezing rain, he was carried back to his sheep, to the little apple orchard, where the new lambs go in spring, and buried beneath the trees.

We miss you, Sam. Thank you. Thank you for everything.




Burying a dog

There are various places in which a dog may be buried.
I am thinking now of a Setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as I am aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought.
This Setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam.
And at its proper season, the cherry tree strews petals on the green lawn of his grave.
Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a dog.
Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavoursome bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruder.
These are good places in life or in death.

Yet, it is a small matter, for if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps.
On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppy hood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture lane where most exhilarating cattle grazed, is all one to the dog, and all one to you.
And nothing is gained, nothing is lost if memory lives.
But, there is one place to bury a dog.

If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may laugh at you who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall...who hear no whimper, people who never really had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.

What are you doing, up so late?

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My mother's been gone 25 years - a quarter of a century - it doesn't seem possible, but this year, I realised, I've lived longer without her, than I did with. I don't miss her every single day any more - but I miss her a lot. I have Boo, who is a lot like her, but that doesn't alter the fact that I have lived all my grown up, married, child raising years, without my mama. And my dad, come to that.

And yet. I still hear her voice (and her voice went before she did) - especially when I'm up at 1.20am. Just what am I doing, up so late?

Well, since Neil is still out working, I've been doing some Christmas preparations, and doing a little sewing.




Putting together the 'top' of a stocking - I really love the ideas of personalised stockings, hanging on the chimney breast, so I've started using scraps to make something for each of the girls. What do you think?



It's such fun to make things from scraps lying around - and to personalise them a little bit.



It couldn't be easier - I'm thinking I might put together a little tutorial, but I'm not sure anyone would need one!

The Rain Stopped

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I think it may be a temporary state of affairs, but today , the sun shone, and a slight chill touched the air - it was almost like a normal autumn!
It was a good day to let Smartie and Cormi stay out all day - and that meant not only did I get some bread made, I also managed to clear another bed in my little polytunnel, and add copious quantities of manure to the section. In my dreams, my polytunnel produces year round - last year I wasn't organised enough to fill it with winter goodies, and more to the point, I was too dim to realise that of course, even if they are not planted up, polytunnels require water in winter - so come spring, it was like the Gobi Desert in there.
This year, thus far I have plenty of lettuce and some rocket, and I am getting on top of the beds, clearing and adding manure as I go, and the ancient lawn sprinkler Neil found in the shed, is turned on for a few minutes, every other day or so, which keeps the soil nice and moist.
Made bread, and yoghurt - not one of my skills, but since I gave in and bought a little electric yoghurt making gizmo, it comes out perfect every time - and fetched Buttons and Arch in so that P (the littlest livery) could ride.
I've listed the seeds needed for the Dig for Victory garden, and am now just trying to decide - should I do as I threatened, and plant the whole thing from the cheapest available Lidls seed - certainly, I think in wartime, we would have used what ever was available, and unless we had been enthusiastic gardeners and plant breeders before the onset of hostilities, I don't think we'd have been fussing too much about varieties, and all that fancy stuff! Food on the table, that was the plan.
Until I started dabbling in the Dig for Victory leaflets, I had never grown savoys

but this beauty now awaits in the veg garden - they are cold hardy and should be a real winter standby, though they did not survive sitting under 6" of snow last year. They're delicious, and their dark green colour tells us they are rich in nutrients:
Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants. It is packed full of lots of other nutrients too, including vitamin A (which supports eyes and skin), vitamin B1 (energy release), vitamin B6 (nervous function), folate (heart health and foetal development) and iron (oxygen transport round the body).

Like all other types of cabbage and also broccoli, Savoy cabbage contains a cancer-fighting phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is also an antioxidant and natural detoxifier. Research shows that sulforaphane may help to prevent breast, prostate and colon cancer. One study followed up over 100,000 people over six years, and found that those eating the most vegetables had a 25 per cent lower risk of colorectal cancers. Those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables, e.g. Savoy cabbage, had nearly a 50 per cent lower risk of those cancers.

Cabbage also contains a group of phytochemicals, called glucosinolates, which the body changes into cancer-fighting substances called isothiocyanates. Research suggests that these could be helpful for protecting the bladder, stomach and lungs against cancer development.

From the I'm in season Site


Little Experiment - Please Help!

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So I've been driving networking working arranging hosting administrating all sorts of lovelies this week. For Guides and Pony Club. Yes, you're right. Those are both volunteer jobs. Not going to put a crust on anyone's table.
So I'm needing a business boost, and I'm asking all my friends if they will help by:

  1. Visiting my website
  2. If you feel able to purchase some lovely high quality books for Christmas presents, go ahead and do so!
  3. Post a link to my website on your facebook status, tweet it, or pop it on your blog.
  4. Ask all *your* friends to consider buying some books, and pass on the link.
Yes, it is just for me. But it's the first time this week I've had time to do a single thing for me. So I'm relying on my friends to help me make up for lost time!

Thanks guys, don't hesitate to ask if I can do the same for you some day soon.

A list of my shortcomings, and a special offer.

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Well, not so good at this diarising thing, obviously.

The weather is wild and wet and windy and most of my time seems to be spent hauling horses around into a headwind. It's tiring and sends me slightly do-lally. Quiet please at the back, no heckling if you don't mind.

Last night at Guides, we were fortunate enough to have the very wonderful Lucinda Fredericks come to talk to the girls. She was very inspiring, and told them all to know what they wanted, focus, work hard and aim for the top! Quite a few of them were a bit awestruck, and a lot of autographs were signed.

Unfortunately, all this toil and mixing with the stars is hampering my mission to plan my Dig for Victory garden for next year before Christmas - I was hoping to have my seed list up here by now.

I also have lots of Make Do and Mend posts on the back burner, but at this rate, they will boil quietly dry and have to be rehydrated before they get to you.

I have just taken time to upload a fabulous special offer onto my Usborne site so I thought now would be a good time to remind you to go and do some Christmas shopping!

Today I would just like

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for some of my sidebar friends to meet.

'PlainJane' - who lost her beloved Peanut a few months ago and my dear friend Ellen, whose beautiful Lily passed away on Thursday.

Hugs to you both. Dogs are so loved, so integral to our families. How hard it is to part.

If you are feeling strong enough, maybe share with another sidebar friend, the beautiful poem which was posted when the guys at La Ferme de Sorrou lost their beautiful Border Collie, Max.

Ellen, if you still feel weepy, maybe leave it for another day.

So Yesterday

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is gone already! While I was being it, I had all kinds of wonderful prose to share with you, about the hammering, blinding rain, the traffic lights and gridlock outside the school, the long drive home, and the joys of a Pony Club Parents' Evening.
But now, I can barely remember a thing, but that my friend Ali and I reminded ourselves that in this season of our lives, it's about the children, and I reminded myself, that every year I want to have a magical and hospitable Christmas, and every year I don't, because I don't prepare!

So I'd better start on today, which once again dawned extremely wet, and was a challenge, pony wise. Mac and Smartie have been out for a couple of hours, Archie and Buttons stayed in - tomorrow they forecast gale force winds, so if I have to leave them in tomorrow, I had to get the Ballistic Brothers out for some time today!

Hannah came around for coffee, and to have a mini Usborne meeting, we reorganised our schedules and tried desperately to figure out how not to cover the same ground. Then Cynthia and P came to spend time with Buttons - it was just too wet to ride, so they groomed, and I taught them how to clean tack, and they took their tack home with saddle soap on their shopping list, and a song in their hearts! (P is the little girl who now 'loans' Buttons as her very own. He is impressed!)

And now I am about to go and pick up children from school, and feed the family. Husband is out driving taxis tonight, and I have to get H and friend into Trowbridge to the theatre for a Pantomime (aren't they usually AFTER Christmas?!) - thankfully the friend's mum is picking up!

And I am going to attempt to clear out the understairs area to make an office. Or, if it is cold damp and horrible, I am going to watch 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (yes it has a Y) which is an assignment from my Homemade Business course, and write Christmas Cards!

Dear Diary ....

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I am pondering on the tagline of my blog ... 'the well thumbed diary of a quiet english village family'.

And that was what I intended it to be - there are lots of philsophising, thought provoking, issue discuss ing blogs I really like, and I'd even quite like to have one of them as well - but this particular blog was meant to be an account, a day by day, blow by blow, remembering of stuff, for my benefit, really, more than anyone else's.

I started it in secret, two years ago when we first thought the unthinkable - that we might send the girls to school! - and I started to break away from a - I hesitate to use the word cult, but it's tough thinking of a different one! - which I had become part of via the internet - that of the New Christian (neo-con?) conservative (largely American) housewife.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong in being any of those things - but there is a distinct grouping online, and it is huge, and strong, where you can be led from idol to idol, with a verse from scripture at every stop along the way, and never know how far off track you are.

Anyway, it was important to me that it was English, that it was the village life I really know, and that it made no pretence to be a mid west homestead tale, and that it was a diary.

I am an admirer of diarists, in particular as you know, Nella Last. If you read her wonderful war and post war diaries, you certainly will get a lot of opinion, and philosophising - nothing wrong with that - but it appears after the mention of the dusting and what was for lunch, what she did at Center or Canteen, and the latest news from friends and family on foreign and home fronts.

So I am restarting (I hope) with a bit of a mission to record what's going on first, and what I think about it only afterwards!

Unhelpful Attitude

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How do you lose an unhelpful attitude?

I know I suffer from a kind of prideful vulnerability to hurt, and try and pray as I might, I can't seem to lose it.

Yesterday, I went to a Guide Training. On Friday we had rehearsed for Remembrance Day, on Saturday we had a Training Day, on Sunday, Remembrance Day (for which I miss attending my own church) and tomorrow it is Guides.

It is also my 50th birthday, which will actually go unmarked, because I am busy doing things for other people.

On the way home from the training, one of the other leaders chose to share with me that one of the Brownie parents had, upon hearing my name, opined 'Can't stand the woman'

Every bone in my body longs to pack up my uniform, and the eight years of giving of my own time and energies to people who are so downright lazy they won't even help out once a term, and walk quietly and sedately away, and let them get on with it.

Now I know this is an unhelpful attitude. But I can't shift it.

Not long ago, one of the Guides had left, and another said to my daughter 'She left because she didn't like your mum.' This made my daughter cry.

Perhaps I am just not cut out for it, and ought to leave, and go and do something else. If I am not liked, would that count as throwing my toys out of my pram, or just a public service?

Bonfire!

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Tonight the girls had a friend around for a bonfire tea (sausages, baked potatoes and baked beans, followed by baked apples and cream) and a few sparklers round the bonfire, it was lovely to do something to mark this special English festival - next year maybe we'll make a party of it!
Things are tough around here at the moment, and we are pretty close to deciding to get rid of all the goats, many of the chickens, and a lot of the sheep. The exhausting schedule, and the financial drain, are doing for us here.
When we began, we had a lot of high ideals, a lot of beliefs, which, maybe in another time and another place, were valid, real things, but in this time and this place, are delusions.
Maybe it's the tough financial climate, maybe it's the children growing up, or the move to school, but suddenly, it feels like all we've done is create a millstone for our necks.
I know I'm struggling now, as I approach a particularly big birthday, and I feel as if it's all over bar the shouting, and yet my precious days are being absorbed with endless pointless chores and trivia. The golden hours I want to capture forever, are nothing but driving, washing up, and endlessly moving junk around from one place to another!
I wonder if this time we really will let it all go, or if this time next year, I will still be slogging through the mud, wondering why?

The Bluestocking

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This was a comment on my friend Ellen's blog, The Bluestocking Belle (check by sidebar) but grew so long, I kind of wanted it on my own blog too!

I first encountered this delicious term, aged I should think about 6. My parents were very careful never to argue 'devant les enfants' giving us a somewhat unhealthy formative view of relationships, in which strained silences and gritted teeth featured prominently.
However, on one memorable occasion, my fathers sang froid was heated a little by mother's continually comparing me to my loathed cousin, 'Judith Darby' and finding me wanting.
Judith Darby was not in fact my cousin, but the daughter of family friends, Edna, who was thin lipped and withering, and Eric, who was disabled and wore a leg iron, and with whom my mother undoubtedly flirted.
She was called 'Judith Darby' because my sister is called Judith, not that anyone ever called her that except my mother, she is universally known as Jude, but anyway, it was to distinguish her from the lesser mortal who was my sister.
Judith Darby, if my mother was to be believed, learned Greek, played the piano wonderfully, was going to go to university, and had, furthermore, made an entire ZOO from origami.
My own efforts, on the other hand were slow and displeasing. Maybe Judith Darby's acidic mother helped her with her blasted origami rather than criticising her all the time, who knows, but my tongue pinchingly best effort at making a paper Nativity (no one had taught me origami, and I was only six, remember) ended up in a telling off for making a mess.
'Why, oh why' uttered my mother, through a martyr's teeth 'can you not be more like Judith Darby?'

In one of his many appearances as my knight in shining armour, my father, breaking all the rules for once, changed sides.

'Why on earth would you want to be like her?' he twinkled at me, roguishly, and then, to seal the pact, he raised his voice, to reach as far as the flounced into kitchen and boomed 'Judith Darby? Judith Darby is... is a BLUE STOCKING'

And that settled it.

***************************************************

I also wanted to point out though, that the lovely Ellen, self confessed bluestocking, is not in the least Darbyesque, and to the best of my knowledge, does not excel in Greek or Origami, though I could be wrong.

And that my next encounter with the word, involved Vera Brittain, of blessed memory, so of course, despite my father's relishing of the term, it cannot be a bad thing to be!

Such a long time

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since I posted!
Hmmm. Life. Lots of possibilities, which aren't really possibilities, have been and gone, and it goes on, and in the end, you slowly start to realise that this is it.
It has a sadness, and a mellow peacefulness, all rolled up into one.
Half term has been frustrating, we didn't really know how to 'do' it - we'll know better next time! - and yet it's been restorative for us all, to some extent.
The divine Pandora has taken our tiny pony on a share agreement, and comes to ride him two or three times a week. This little gem of a girl, with bucket loads of instinct and natural ability, has been coming for about three weeks, and has taken to it like a duck to water, her tiny, gymnast's body turns and speaks to the pony, her hands are like velvet, her balance near perfect. Another star is born.
Meanwhile, the very very beloved Smartie is suffering more and more with his COPD, and Boo has not been able to ride much. Our beloved boy owes us nothing, and as long as we can afford to feed ourselves, we will keep him, he'll never go back to rescue. He has taught both our precious daughters to ride effortlessly, in a way that my years of training did not provide!
H's new boy, Cormac, is just style personified. No really good photos as yet, but what a pony! We are so blessed, to have been LENT this absolute superstar.
Of course, we can't actually afford to DO anything with them right now! Autumn is a hard time for us, and Neil is driving Taxis into the night as well as shepherding, while I work with my Usborne books business, and try to be Mrs Frugal McDougall (c) and hold it all down.
School. School is great, Boo played in a soccer tournament. They lost, but they loved it. H has become Mrs Academia, and is loving the high stress, high achieving culture. Last seen researching a paper on the history of the Aramaic language. Don't ask.
And that, for now, is my update.
Back to school tomorrow.

Oh!

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You know, that little 'oh' which escapes your lips when you peek into the window of the really lovely interiors store but you can't go in, cos you can't afford a tea towel?

The little 'oh' for the vision in perfect cotswold stone as you round a bend in a sunny village, to be greeted by the front cover of a Joanna Trollope paperback?

That little 'oh'.

Here
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OK, so I have never heard of this guy .
I am probably the only person who has never heard of him, and you are all probably going 'how can you NOT have heard of him?!) and laughing into your early afternoon tea, or 'oh that old fraud, you don't want to read anything by him' and smirking knowledgeably.

But I had never hear of him, so I approached 'The Zen of Attraction' - with a completely open mind - or some would say blank space - and ... well ... I kind of like it.



1. Promise nothing. Just do what you most enjoy doing.

2. Sign nothing. Just do what doesn't require a signature of any kind.

3. Offer nothing. Just share what you have with those who express an interest.

4. Expect nothing. Just enjoy what you already have; it's plenty.

5. Need nothing. Just build up your reserves and your needs will disappear.

6. Create nothing. Just respond well to what comes to you.

7. Seduce no one. Just enjoy them.

8. Adrenalize nothing. Just add value and get excited about that.

9. Hype nothing. Just let quality sell by itself.

10. Fix nothing. Just heal yourself.

11. Plan nothing. Just take the path of least resistance.

12. Learn nothing. Just let your body absorb it all on your behalf.

13. Become no one. Just be more of yourself.

14. Change nothing. Just tell the truth and things will change by themselves.

Copyright 1997 by Thomas J. Leonard All rights reserved


Obviously, I couldn't actually get past number one, and number two is a non starter.
But it's a lovely idea :0)

Ah yes...

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Thanks, Dorothy, I knew there was something!

The girls are loving school. Three days in, we are all exhausted from all the accurate time keeping, and H is getting used to mountains of homework which, bizarrely, she quite likes. We'll see how long that lasts! Boo is a fish in water - always social and competitive, she loves the charts, the competition, the PE ... she was always going to love it though!

It feels a right time as if H is finally (an unbelievably, thank you , Lord!) ready for it all, in a way which was unimagineable at 6 - it's taken six long years, and now, I believe, she can cope. Boo probably would have been ready earlier, but not at the just-barely-four they wanted her. She was still a baby, she still needed her mother. That's the sad thing about the system, it insists that one size fits all.

I don't know how long this season in our life will be, or if we will ever home educate again, but two things I do know:

Firstly, this was a necessary thing - it was only after they were at school that I realised how hopelessly dysfunctional our home had become. It will take me at least half a term to get the house into a state where I would not be too ashamed to invite someone in. Hey, maybe this is why we don't have any friends?

Secondly, if ever we do home educate again, it won't be until we move somewhere else. Or, if it becomes critical and we are still here, I will do so in isolation, or with the local home educators. One of the biggest burdens I feel has been lifted from me, is the 'christian' home ed group we used to attend, and the unkindness and bullying of some (chiefly one) members. I know the children also feel the weight has lifted, that they don't have to spend time with such thoroughly nasty children. The two families who were lovely, we are still in touch with, so we can still see them. The others? So long, and thanks for nothing.

By contrast, both children and adults at the little christian school (where I don't feel the need to use inverted commas) seem polite, normal, and friendly.

So our interim report is, so far, so good.

One Oh One

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With a burst of inspiration, we decided to look at multi generational vision. We've had some help from Vision Forum, but in the end, we had to decide we wanted to do this ourselves.
What do we believe God wants of our family? Where do we want our family to be in ten years' time. In twenty? In fifty? Long after I am dead, what do I want for my children, and their children and their children.
Dude, it is the most freeing process.
Because if you can give yourself two hundred years to do it in , anything's possible!
We realised that we ultimately really, really wanted a farm. Planning within this lifetime had left us settling for tenancy, but giving it large with the daughters and the sons of the daughters, we decided we wanted to own those acres.
This country once had the most beautiful farms. I recommend Gordon Beningfield's The English Farm. Mixed farms of immense complexity, the names we give now to biodiversity, edge, sustainability, all unknown to our tweed and cord clad forbears, were real, and beautiful, and rolled endlessly on with our perfect seasons.
We want that. We want to unspecialise, to provide, for ourselves and our village, a brilliant carpet of little fields, a little tractor, and variety of produce,which sustains the soil and the hedgerow, feeds the stock, and picks up the precious thread, sewn through the plough and the hedges, the gold corn and the nut brown forest, the lovat hedge and the dove grey dawn, from a time when Saxon peasants wove stock proof hedges. To now. And beyond.
And with this freedom, came a new idea. (Another one?!) and now, it is safe, and warm, and unborn, in our house, but if it becomes real, it will, for me, crown a year of glory, and I will take it up, and offer it with praise to the One who inspires us day by day, and shout with great joy at the hills.

To Catch a Vision

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The expression has some currency in the world of christian media, we talk about catching a vision ... but this may be stating the obvious ... you are supposed to catch a vision, like catching a butterfly, not like catching a cold.
It is easy, I have discovered to find that you have quite literally 'caught' a vision, in the contagious sense, and the downside to that, is - it ain't your vision!
My friend Cat has been talking at length about authenticity and honesty, especially when it comes to brokeness.
But what's also important is that the small treasures we hold, unbroken, remain precious and are acknowleged as our own.
I have too often been swept away in a 'vision' of homesteading and the values and virtues of 'Plain'. I have gained so much from all that, and to this day, still sneakily curl on a quiet afternoon, to read slim sections from the pages of The Plain Reader, once they have been shuffled back into place, having long since fallen out with over use.
My whole notion of church and education (home schooling) has been forged on this anvil of the Western Expansion, the cultural patchwork quilt that is Rural America.
But, I don't live there. And given that God doesn't make mistakes, nor was I intended to.
Some days I awake and realise that my own life, my very own life, which does not in any way match with the desirable vision toting big blogs of homestead land - is in fact, a perfect, perfect microcosm of quiet chapel history, the Sunday meetings, morning and evening, the English kitchen where home grown veg meet up with a local roast, and pudding comes with custard - the knitting of a cardigan, the walking of a dog, the working of a dog, a booted husband who shepherds sheep and hauls hay, and children who will be in a preciously recreated environment - a little village school with a christian curriculum.
And for generations of quietly devout and devoted, non conformist chapel women, the daily routine was much like mine - my grandmother's family was one such, though sadly I was robbed of a lot of the stories, by my staunchly Anglican mother, who wiped out as much of the chapel baggage as she ever could - but I know this to be the case, and it's a precious thing.
It's an awesome thing to realise that you already have it ... that all the precious gems of the quiet English world, beloved of many quiet generations, the girls on ponies in a milky dawn (or a drippy afternoon), the golden stubble (which once called us to gallop in an autumn frenzy for weeks, and now, blink and you miss it, they disc that stuff overnight, we had to stop to gaze on stubble today, because by the next time we will certainly drive by, next Sunday, it will certainly be gone) - and next week, even, the green tented Guide camp .... these are the testimony of quiet, christian England, these are a glimpse of a simpler time, but in this land, not far away.

it's all about home, not a far off land

Little House on the Praire


it's all about truth, not dreams.
it's all about now.


"nothing is real until you do it"
Jo

Erm.... Dear USA

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We know you love Scotland, and that you love to trace your heritage there, and wear the tartan, and sing the songs.
Yet funnily enough, I have just heard an excerpt from your news broadcasts, with regard to the Lockerbie Bomber, crying 'Why did Great Britan do this?'.

Ahem. We didn't. It was Scotland.

I know, I know, we don't have cute tartan, or any of those really cool names. But please, credit where it's due, we also did not release the Lockerbie Bomber. That was Scotland. Devolved government. Not England. Or Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. Scotland.

Och Aye. :0)

What to read ?

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Has anyone who has read Nella Last's War/Peace found anything remotely able to follow them?
I read 'Our Hidden Lives' afterwards, and found it a slow starter, but eventually engaging, and have since read 'Can Any Mother Help Me?' - again, a compelling collection but ... oh how I miss Nella!
I am tempted to re-read her too soon, because I so miss her inspirational take on life, and the astounding stories of everyday courage and tenacity - but I would really prefer to find a worthy successor.
Any suggestions?

Fly Past

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I don't know, I just seem to be so busy.
I'm in the middle of: making bread, making cake, painting Boo's bedroom, supervising the girls who are caterpillar picking out in the cabbage patch, remembering I must put another load of laundry on, and trying to make a list of other things I must do.
Saturday: small show, Boo did well, coming second in an awesomely tight timed jump off. H survived the day on the stroppy little welsh pony, who is due to go home soon.
Sunday: To the inlaws - chuckling because I'd berated Dorothy for driving past my door last week and not stopping by, so just to keep things even I drove past hers this week - but the day was, at best, challenging, and Boo got stung by a wasp and her arm is still swollen.
Monday - dropping with exhaustion, but managed an hour in the (much neglected) garden and a lot of other dashing around. At 6pm when supper was all systems go, my dear husband decided he need all hands on deck to move some sheep. We ate at 9pm. Need I say more?
A young girl answered the children's bantams for sale ad in the local feedstore, and arranged to come and buy some. She turned up with her 'hard bitten farmer' grand father (although, to be honest, the little tinny dihatsu truck didn't enhance the image) who proceeded to try to rip my children off.
Not a chance, though I did take details, 'in case they change their minds' - though they are not going to. So, Mr S--- of M--- Farm, in S----, I have your name, and in more ways than one, I have your number, chum.
Today - see above.
Oh and my camera's broken. Which is not fair. I need to put pictures on here.

I am still here.

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Unbelievably. I am still here.

Back from two weeks of pony club camp, both girls did fantastically - Lynn, in answer to your question, both are now off to school in September, we are excited about this phase in our life, as I research a return to Country Markets, and an expansion of my Usborne Business, as well as ever more frugal and creative homesteading.

Today we made an early start and the girls rode lot number one before breakfast. The two who have just been to camp are rather fit and buzzy and if not worked, get above themselves, so they rode for an hour or so in the paddock and jumped both of them.

Meanwhile, I made bread, and got to work on some soap, for my soap course - OK ladies, I still have not sent out invoices, I have had one cancellation and now have a couple of places left, am going to get to promoting those locally soon - can't wait for the course, it's going to be sooooo cool!

*If you are interested, Soap and Sisterhood takes place on 26th September, and is my inaugural homeskilling course, so it's a bargain price of £20 for the day, including a light lunch - can't wait, can't wait, can't wait .....

I made a lovely melt and pour tea tree soap today, it smells divine - need to get that up for sale soon too, first I'd like to make some reclaimed/vintage fabric bags to complement the soap ....

Then had a friend coming to pick up five dozen eggs and also had to get stuck into making cucumber relish, eight pounds of, for our own use and for selling on Country Markets.

Lunch, then out in the garden to prepare a bed in the polytunnel for winter salad, oh the garden is getting away from me, the blight is setting into the potatoes, despite my having sprayed with Bordeaux Mixture, and everywhere is a total jungle! My Dig for Victory Garden has become a Collaborator! Rats! There's always next year. Again!

Dot into town to buy lamb nuts, and dog food, and pin up the girls' ad for bantams for sale. £7.50 per hen, cockerel free with two hens. Can't say fairer than that - anyone want some bantams?!

It's just the best life! By the time I was making supper, the girls were riding the second lot (my old cob and the outgrown shetland!) and dusk was falling, for high summer is over, and the days are drawing in ...

We are so blessed.

Where I'm from.....

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This idea, or method of writing a poem about Where I'm From, is pinched from Dorothy, who pinched it from Kathryn, who found a template.
Try it for yourself, here.
It's a wonderful exercise, I've found it enlightening and rather cathartic.

So. This is Where I'm From:

I am from sheepdogs in chamomile, from mouldering thatch and Massey Ferguson

I am from the wet wooded lanes, the mist laden dawns and staunching plough.

From GirlGuide tents and Meals on Wheels and British Legion Standards. Days off school for potato picking, and the Royal Show. From 'Jill's Gymkhana' and 'Follyfoot' and Miss Whitfield's Children's Riding School.

I am from the deadnettle, dandelion, daisy and dog rose, the cleavers and willowherb, clinging to wet Labrador.

I am from the RAF March, the Last Night of the Proms, the Boat Race, the Test Match, from Churchill and Kipling, Daniel and Kate and mad Clarissa.

I am from the walkers and travellers. From coffee and biscuits with the news, and then bed. From Two Way Family Favourites, and Morecambe and Wise.

From God is an Englishman, and understands cricket, and horses who have gone, graze the Elysian fields.

I am from Oh God Our Help in Ages Past, Jerusalem, and I Vow to Thee My Country. From a Girls’ Grammar School, with vast engraved boards of past achievers.

I am from Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah, Praise the Lord! and Yes, Jesus Loves me.

From towering vault of medieval church, and brick built vestibule of square Victorian chapel.

I'm from Warwickshire woods, and Gloucestershire fields,. black pudding and golden pies. From Sunday tea, with trifle. From Choc Ices and Cornish Mivvies.

From the gin soaked knee of Uncle Clem, and Alf’s Rolls Royce. From Maud and Arthur’s council house garden, with blackcurrant bushes, and a shed.

I am from a 1930s semi, a brick built cottage, a stone house on a hillside.

I am from people who were born and died on the land, and asked no more.

I am from England.



Goodbye, Bracken

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Haven't posted for ages - so much is going on, and yet so little is clear, nothing solid to comment upon. The girls both now have places at school in September, so life will change hugely for me. We have been burning the midnight oil and the rubber on the road trying to find a stand in pony for H for pony club camp in just one week's time, and have I think, just succeeded. As a result, I think, of the momentous decisions, and perhaps the search for a pony, I am feeling pretty poorly. I have a lot of symptoms which could mean anything from 'my age' to 'run down' to full blown chronic fatigue - so I am trying now to take it a little easier.

On Thursday, Neil fed the in kid goats, turned to milk the other goat, turned back, and our beloved Bracken had died. No warning. She ate her breakfast, she died.

Worried sick about the other goats, he had to take her all the way to Bristol University for a post mortem, which revealed that she had ruptured her uterine artery. No reason, it just happens. So sad, and after such a hard week, it just nearly did for me.

The weather is a repeat of the last two summers - cold and wet. The Rayburn is alight, and all the others have gone off to evening meeting at chapel, but after I was nearly reduced to tears with the pain in my joints, sitting still this morning, I have been left at home, on the sofa with a blanket, to try to feel better.

And to shed a quiet tear for Bracken, my favourite. Bye bye, sweetheart. Sleep well.

I can't think where this photo was taken, she seems to have climbed into a semi deconstructed lambing pen, but it's so telling of her lovely face.

Must be the heat! Unbelievable Business Opportunity!

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Woke up this morning ... (where's Dorothy and her family when you *need* them? Come along, we'd like a Blues riff in there, if you please .....) where was I?
OH yes. Woke up this morning to discover that Usborne's Starter Kit - which if you please enables you to start your own business, as well as have a lot of fun, and some seriously lovely books - is on offer for the first few days of July only for ...... FIVE POUNDS!
Get outta here, I hear you cry!
But, no. I mean yes - you really can start your own business, get lots of free books, and perhaps, the icing on the cake, you can be on my team for just FIVE POUNDS!
It's a no brainer. Unless you're so rich you don't need any more money, and so weird you don't like gorgeous books, in which case, I can't help you, I can't really. Your fate is sealed.

Toddle along to my website FIRESIDE DAYS and download your organiser agreement today, and email me to get you started on the first fun stages of your Usborne business.

But hurry, because the bargain price is going to creep back up throughout July, and the increbible £5 deal is only for the very first few days !

Big stuff happens

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It is hot, here in England, uncharacteristically hot. We've had a year of proper seasons, for which I am so thankful. It snowed in winter. The sun shone, the wind blew, and the showers played hide and seek in spring, and now summer is blazing, hot, and dry. Thank you Lord, for a proper year!
Finally, after long prayer, and strange days indeed, we have Boo ready to register at a small christian school in September. H has to wait for a place - she's praying and hoping one might come up in September, but if not, it shouldn't be too long.
Tomorrow, and Friday, Boo will be off for her induction days - long summer days, for the first time in her nearly ten year old life, spent in a classroom. She is sooo excited! They are ready to fly, my fledglings, and for all the world, I would not hold them back.
If it doesn't work, if they don't fit, if H turns inward again, they will be back home in a heart beat. But for now, we are content, it is what the Lord would have us do, we have peace, despite the strained finances, and the strangeness of thinking about uniforms and name tapes ... it's OK.
In farm news, two broods of chicks continue to grow and thrive, our very, very late lambs (Neil has to do everyone else's lambing before ours can pop!) are doing wonderfully well. The goats are blooming and due to kid this month some time.
The days are long, hot and humid, and since my kitchen still lacks a hob (promised Saturday) I still cannot cook properly, or do any preserving!
I hope soon to update on our Dig for Victory campaign (with mixed results at the moment) and also on Make Do and Mend - times are very tight, so I hope real inspiration will be at hand!
Finally, supplies have arrived for our soap making course in September, and I am very, very excited to get down to some preparatory work! It's going to be good!

Loving Cat's Latest

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If you're a Miss Read fan

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Our Miss Read blog A Village Blog is now open for business!

Fabulous Offer on My Usborne Website Has Been Extended

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Among my new income streams, I think the most exciting is probably Usborne Books - they're so lovely and the fun of goal setting and achieving is a buzz!
I use the books for school - H has just finished reading 'Minna's Quest' about a girl and a horse, in Roman times, and Boo has just read Geraldine McCraughrean's 'Tamburlaine's Elephants' - a novel of 14th Century India. And we've also started on the Internet Linked 'Introduction to Art', which is absolutely brilliant.
If you like the idea of working for yourself, hours to suit, taking little ones along with you, using the tools of your trade for learning in your own home, or otherwise adapting your work at home life to suit your family, instead of the other way around - join our winning team!
There's a great offer on joining in June, and it's been extended - provided your Organiser Agreement reaches Head Office by 2nd July, you can still qualify for 12 free phonics books, if you book two events by 9th July - that's ages! Loads of time to get together a couple of small groups to help you get started.
I'd love to help you take the first steps, and I know I have great back up, to help you achieve your goals.

In safe hands

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I give you, my incredibly talented niece ... she calls me aunt/sister ... our family is kind of generationally challenged. I'm toying with the idea of using 'coz' in the Shakespearian sense ... ie 'related to me in a kind of random way, which you wouldn't quite get'.


So. My 'coz' - very talented photographer, with obviously uber talented models - my daughter, and her pet bantam Sophie's offspring!




We're Back!

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Been away for a week, by the seaside, doing seaside things, having some time out and dreaming dreams.
Life may be about to change :D

And the Winner is .........

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I'm so sorry, we had kind of a frantic day yesterday, and the drawing has been put back by twenty four hours!

However, without further ado ...

Let's write everyone's name on a paper



put them in a basin



hold it up high, no peeking



and the winner is ....................



so, Jenny, can you send me your address, and we'll post it!

Let me not to the marriage of true minds, admit impediment...

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What I think is, that I have a fear of being ... well ... normal. There. I said it.
I have a deeply conventional, conservative nature. Yet somehow, someone, somewhere planted a seed that made me think being like everyone – or actually even like anyone – else, was tacky, less than was expected of me, insufficient. OK, that sounds like my father speaking, so it was probably him.
I am my mother’s Girlguide Leader, Member of Pony Club Parents’ Committee, lover of afternoon tea, clean floors and red geraniums. I am my father’s rebel, world changer, chapel goer, non conformist, ranter, raver and putter of the world to rights, lover of spices, wild flowers, and anything remotely connected with a horse.
My feet don’t match, you know. I have one square, level, spade of a foot, like my fathers’ were, and one pointy vaguely disfigured, tortured foot, like my mothers’ were. An allegory for my life, my feet are.
My mother in me is now prepared to send the girls to school, to pitch in to help this family survive the tough times, to acknowledge that while the material things in life are not the be all and end all, that our treasure should be stored in heaven, but that nevertheless, survival is kind of key, and around here, with the gazillion volunteer hours I donate, and homeschooling, and the farm, I am out of hours to allocate to gainful employment.
My father in me, rages against this slow capitulation, wants to homeschool in splendid isolation, at odds with the world, and yet in possession of all that is really good and true, in a stolen seascape at dawn, a wild ride across a moor, a garden to feed the poor, and nurture the damaged and unloved, and trusting to God and all His angels to feed and house us, despite the hike in rent.

What will happen, as it did when they were here on this earth, is this:

My heart, and wild soul, my father in me, will fight this battle for years yet, convinced he leads, convinced we follow, adrift on a combative ocean of life’s challenges, fighting the wind and the rain, tired and dry eyed with a firm belief in the impossible.
Meanwhile, my mind, and earthly body, my mother in me, will have paid the school fees, replaced the car, sorted out the garden, and have laid tea, with lemon not milk, and very small scones, and fruitloaf, awaiting the return of the wanderer.
And at the moment when they sit down together, close to the fire, by a sleeping dog, and the rebel turns, onto an overworked hip which compensates for a damaged back, and raises woeful eyebrows at the keeper of the family hearth – it will all begin to make sense.
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