I Can See For Miles And Miles

Criffel on the skyline

Criffel on the skyline

After a mild but cloudy few days, today was more wintery. It was bright and cold, and with the cold came dry clear air.  In fact, it was so dry that all the wet roads dried out  – leaving us with a light dusting of frost on the fields and verges, and occasional patches of solid ice where the night’s rain had left a slightly deeper puddle. The sun shone down on us, but with very little warmth and the frost and ice tended to just ignore it.

Once again, I had forgotten to put my gloves on when we left the house. Gloves complicate everything, from fitting the key in the lock when locking the door – to pressing the shutter release on the camera. You spend double the time and effort, perhaps even triple: take your gloves off; do what needs to be done; put your gloves back on, and repeat every half a minute. Naturally, today, when I came to press the power button on the camera – my fingers were so cold and numb it took longer than if I had had my gloves on.

With the sun being so low in the sky at the moment, we generally walk downhill – into the sun, only stopping at The Dog’s insistence – until we get to the beck. Then we walk home, up the hill, with the sun at our back. This gives us better photo opportunities. This was one of those opportunities. The mountain on the skyline is Criffel, and it is miles and miles away, over the other side of the Solway Firth, in Scotland.

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A Bit Early

First Snowdrops

First Snowdrops

You know when you have people coming to visit, and you said about two-ish? Then at two o’clock you just need to have a quick vacuum round and then everything will be ready, so you get the vacuum out and pull the wire out all over the floor and are down on your knees messing around with wall plugs to try to find the one you can take out without switching something important off? You finally find a spare socket and plug in and are about to switch on – when there is a knock at the door.

Your guests are standing there. ‘Hello,’ they say, ‘You did say two o’clock, didn’t you?’ as they notice you in your tracksuit bottoms with the vacuum in your hand.

We find ourselves in a similar situation. Here we have Snowdrops springing up all over the place and we really thought they wouldn’t be here before the end of January. A few more days, a week or so at the most, and we’d have everything in apple-pie order – but no they’ve turned up now.

Well, what would you do? Shall we sit them down with a cup of tea while we finish the cleaning then go and get changed? Or shall we try to bluff it and pretend they’re right on time and that we were just putting the vacuum away?

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A Place to Ponder

shadow at the railings

shadow at the railings

It was a nice this morning, so when we came to the bridge over the beck, I stopped to look over the railings.

The beck was chuckling away to itself in a contented sort of way – not as if someone had told a funny joke but more because it was feeling pleased. Everything that shouldn’t be there was being washed off downstream – and anything that should be there had been manoeuvred safely to somewhere it would stick. Life was organised and arranged to its complete satisfaction.

The hedges, as we wove our way down the hill, were full of the cheerful cheeping of various assorted small birds and we had received a warm ‘tic, tic, tic,’ from a passing blackbird. The nasty cold wind of the last few days had blown itself out and there were only a few small fluffy clouds to mar the blue of the sky.

Standing there, the sun was warm on my back – a pleasant change indeed – the sun doesn’t have much time for us these days. He is putting in a lot of overtime down in the southern hemisphere at the moment, you know.

The general feeling of relaxed contentment was contagious and I stood there for a while contemplating my shadow, thrown on the far bank.  Is this, I wondered, what they mean when they talk about our ‘Comfort Zone’? The Dog finished snuffling in the brambles and became restless enough to interrupt my reverie, so, reluctantly, I left my warm spot and started back up the hill, homeward.

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The Circle Of Life

Tractor

Tractor

When we arrived at the corner and could look into the field, we noticed immediately that the gate was open. At first, we thought that, as it was quite a mild day, John had, perhaps, left it open to air the field. It probably gets quite musty in there – shut up all summer. Next year’s occupants are currently languishing in the barn, I’m sure they would be pleased to know that their field was being properly prepared for them.

But no, on closer inspection, we detected his tractor, in the far corner, down near the beck. We realised at once that something, far more fundamental than merely taking the net curtains down and washing them, was going on. In fact, last years mowings were being returned to their appointed place in the scheme of things.

What we were viewing was nothing less than The Circle of Life. The grass was mown in late summer – then stored until just the current contingency occurred. Then its big break came – and it was fed to the cattle sequestered in enviable luxury within the byre.

The cattle leapt into action! They immediately began the task of processing the raw material. Soon, John was able to perform the final stage in the ritual. He loaded the end product onto his trailer and returned it – with all due ceremony – to whence it came.

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Midwinter And The Midday Sun

Midday Sun on Midwinter's Day

Midday Sun on Midwinter’s Day

Here we stand, at the turning of the year.
As much before as is behind.
Paths are vague – timidly ahead we peer.
Will time to come treat us unkind?

Here I stand, my shade cast heavy and long.
It lies ahead unless I turn.
Words are vague – but play an old-known song.
Will time bring us new rhymes to learn?

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Hedge Trimmers

Hedge Cutting

Hedge Cutting

This morning, as we left the house, it was obvious that something was going on. What a noise! We wandered out of our little lane and turned down the road – the sound getting louder and louder as we approached.

As we’d guessed – hedge trimming was in full swing. This is the ideal time to do it from our point of view. The hedges have become very overgrown, and now that they have all gone to sleep for the winter they won’t wriggle and squirm while they are having their hair cut. A couple of weeks ago we had several days of frost and that softened up the berries on the various plants and bushes. The birds and small mammals immediately took advantage and relieved the bushes of their fruit in very short order.

So, the bushes have dozed off and the cupboard is bare – who could possibly complain that the rampant growth of spring and summer is being tidied up and made shipshape and Bristol fashion.

No doubt it will also assist with the search for the best nesting site as soon as spring turns up next year.

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Same Old, Same Old.

Holly Leaves

Holly Leaves

Poof! Well, we’re back to the old grind. A blog, once a week, on Friday. In many ways, it’s comforting to be back. It was exciting writing a poem a day with no idea what the subject of our rhyme would be – until we had a photo to work with. Mostly, we managed to use an image taken that morning on the phone – We did cheat a couple of times, but I’m sure you didn’t notice.

Today’s picture is of holly leaves. During November we had a picture of them that included some nice bright red berries. Today, you’ll notice their absence.

Holly Berries are very hard – and even birds find them indigestible – until we get a good frost. The cold not only softens the berries, but it also changes them chemically to make them more nutritious. We have had a few frosty mornings lately, and the berries must have responded to the cold. The birds didn’t stand on ceremony, Christmas or no Christmas, Holly branches with no red berries troubled them not at all. They had cleaned the bushes out completely a few days after the frost.

Needs must when – well, you know.

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