Wednesday 31 January 2024

Thrifty Living in January

 Hibernating is very good for the bank balance, as is eating from the freezer, and spending was nice and low. 

Income was the usual State and County Council Spouses Pensions, some interest from savings plus just under £20 from Ziffit for a box of books.

The Council Tax and direct debits for charity, broadband and phones plus diesel for the car (twice, once at beginning of month and once right at the end when just under half full) and the monthly electric bill  came to about £360 and I also bought another 5L of screen wash for £2.99 - really needed after all the rain and muddy roads. 

Food spending including restocking things like bags of bread flour and trying different sorts of coffee grounds for my new machine (which I'm loving) although I did buy some items that made 10 more meals for the freezer for February and March which I posted about mid month.

Personal spending was low, (although it's surprising how the £1.50s Keep Moving Group and £3s for swimming add up through the month) until  I had a morning out to Bury St Edmunds last week. Before that there was just a couple of coffees and cheese scones, exercise group, swimming and a new pair of reading glasses because the pair I keep in my handbag for using when out, fell off  my head at the exercise group and snapped the frame - I got some snazzy jazzy coloured ones for under £20. One second-hand poetry book bought for £2.80 (and then some other second hand books for £6).
My morning out took me to Bury St Edmunds for a change of scene and a tour of charity shops where I found 2 tunic tops - one a Joules and the other from Next and spent £21. Very expensive compared to charity shop prices of the past but I rarely see any a good length and it will save me buying new next winter, plus I found a few books - that was the £6. I'll write about them later. I had the bargain breakfast in Greggs for £2.85. (Bacon roll - with plenty of bacon - and large coffee)
Then had a much needed hair cut right at the end of the month - but as usual just had the cheapest available.

There's a market stall in Diss every Friday that has wild bird feed much cheaper than anywhere else so I stocked up on a ginormous bag of dried meal worms - which still wasn't enough for the month due to the blinkin'  starlings -  and a couple more suet blocks. I shopped at Morrisons while I was there and regretted it - should have gone to Aldi first because Morrisons prices seemed to have gone up again and there were several gaps on the shelves.
The window cleaner turned up on a cold day, always good for a chat as he knows everyone and everything about this village and actually lives in my last village so knows all about there too. It might be called gossiping but I think of it as gathering information!
Some money was spent on the garden because I went out to get a couple of bags of Multi Purpose compost and one of seed compost so I'm right ready to start, my seeds arrived earlier in the month. I bough a new Niger seed feeder for the birds while I was there as I'd got some Niger seed left and nothing to put it in. Perhaps I'll now see Goldfinches.
Finally it's MG's 4th birthday next week so there was a birthday present to buy.

Frugal things done this month

  • Nothing bought in January sales
  • Choosing the right days to do the washing and hang it out (tumble dryer used just twice during January) and finishing on radiators.
  • Mixing milk half and half with water
  • Batch cooking pastry cases to go in freezer
  • Reading library books and books from my shelves all month
  • Using bread-maker for all bread.
  • Checking through clothes to see what I need to look for in charity shops this year
  • Avoiding buying things like alcohol, jewellery, makeup etc
  • Managed to sort the boiler again when low water pressure stopped the heating from working
  • No longer buying coffee sachets 
  • Back to drinking tea once a day instead of  one of my coffees
  • Able to get ½ dozen free range eggs  for £1.25 from a farm when I go swimming -instead of £2+ at the supermarket.
  • Made sure money in Building Society had a bonus added for the next year when the old year finished.
  • Moved some money into ISA
  • Only using dishwasher every other day.
  • Shutting curtains as soon as it's dark to keep heat in.
  • Getting up late enough to not need lights in the morning!
  • Not going far so using less diesel in the car.

In February I have to buy heating oil and pay the half year bills for water supply and sewerage and as the boiler has ceased up YET AGAIN (hot water OK but no heating -just like last time)there will be a repair bill for that. Still no car boot sales so I might have a morning out to a different town for the charity shops. I'll still be eating lots of my home made ready meals from the freezer and there's no Council Tax in February which helps - although I expect we will hear it's gone up when it starts again in April. 

Thank you to everyone for comments about the Mistle Thrush photos. I was lucky to be in the right place to get a good photo.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Mistle Thrush

 Walking back through the churchyard last week after taking the photos of various houses I spotted this fella sitting on a gravestone. This is at full zoom and as I tried to get closer he hopped onto another stone further away.

I've seen him hopping about in the lower half of the burial ground before but to be close enough to get a photo was a treat.

I looked in my book  'A Sparrows Life as Sweet as Ours'  to see Carrie Ackroyds Illustration and to read

the facing page about them by John McEwen. McEwen says that The Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus, 'mistletoe gorger') was given it's name  in the C17 by Sir Thomas Browne.
It's local name in some places is 'Stormcock' as it is known to sing from a treetop whatever the weather from November through to June.

Raising his voice as the gusts still roared
A speckled Mistle thrush told me clear,
That harvest was garnered, that apples were stored,
That summer was ended, that autumn was here.

from Stormcock by Bill Humphries

Back Tomorrow

Monday 29 January 2024

A Book and a Bag of Fruit and Nuts

 All my library books have now been finished although I still have the huge book about the Great Bardfield Artists to look through. 

What to choose off my shelves?

I picked A Lost Lady by Willa Cather , which is one of the books I found at the big Colchester Charity Book Sale in October.

I've read O Pioneers and My Antonia by her previously. This is the note about the book from Wiki

A Lost Lady is a 1923 novel by American writer Willa Cather. It tells the story of Marian Forrester and her husband, Captain Daniel Forrester, who live in the Western town of Sweet Water along the Transcontinental Railroad. Throughout the story, Marian—a wealthy married socialite—is pursued by a variety of suitors and her social decline mirrors the end of the American frontier.[1] The work had a significant influence on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby.[2]

It's very well written and I enjoyed it, it will be added to my very small collection of Virago Modern Classics to keep, rather than pass on. 

I was listening to Radio 5 Live while writing this post and heard about how well England did in the first of the cricket test matches in India. Colin would have so enjoyed it. The first time India have lost  at home while having a 100 run lead, I think they said, and England hardly ever win much abroad.

 But I was really listening to the final of the Australian Open Tennis which was incredibly exciting even on radio. I'm thinking I need a subscription to a sports TV channel now that so little is on terrestrial TV. If I bought fewer books I could easily afford it!


This is my way of using a 200g, 59p bag of Essential Range mixed fruit and nuts from Aldi. "ideal for snacking" it says on the packet and they wouldn't take long to eat as a snack, but I use them a different way.

Separated into peanuts, raisons and almonds. The peanuts are enough for two batches of home-made peanut biscuits. The raisons will be chopped and used in the next loaf of spiced fruit loaf made in the bread-machine and the almonds will be blanched, chopped and used for almond biscuits with some drops of almond essence. Although last time I added them to the bag of mixed nuts when I made spiced roast nuts as one of my January treats - mustn't make them again until next January - they are far too more-ish!

It seems a good way to make use of them - better than snacking - (the recipe for the Basic Biscuits is on the separate recipe page - scroll down to almost at the end)

Back Tomorrow

Saturday 27 January 2024

Another Quiet Week

 It's been another quiet week here, even Storm Isha  passed over the top of the bungalow last Sunday night without any damage and the remains of it were very good for getting a load of washing dry on Monday and  I didn't see any sign of trees down on the way to swimming either  so Mid Suffolk must have got away lightly compared to many parts of the country. Storm Jocelyn wasn't noticeable here apart from yet more rain.

Our Keep Moving group had a full turn out, which was good. One more week like that and we can have a free week. We just have to cover village hall hire and coffee and biscuits, as we do everything ourselves so every now and again there's enough in the kitty for us to have a week without paying our £1.50's.

After reading in two different places that Brenda Blethyn said she wouldn't  be doing anymore episodes of Vera and writing that last week on the blog. I was flummoxed to hear after the last episode last Sunday the announcer say "you will be pleased to hear that Vera will be back with another series in 2025". So I wonder why she clearly said she would do no more at her age of 77 and then changed her mind? She's obviously not wanting to retire after all. 

Somewhere in the week I mentioned 'Following a Tree'. It's a blog link up thing that has been running for years - although I didn't know it was still going. I took photos of our Pink Flowered Horse Chestnut at the smallholding through some of 2014 and then never gave it another thought.

I thought I could fill a blog post by following a tree through 2024 - ten years after the original. I'll not be linking into other blogs but just looking at the changes to this Oak tree - if I remember - at the end of each month.

I've picked an English Oak as it's about as traditional as you can get. This one is the nearest up the little lane from home. As you can see it's had a couple of branches cut off just recently. There's been a huge tracked digger cleaning out  the ditch right down the road and they've also put new field drains in across the field on the right and perhaps the branches were in the way of the digger.

Just in case the tree doesn't survive the year I photographed two more further up the lane. They are all the same size so probably planted at the same time - I reckon well over 100 years ago.

I'll do a better post about Oak trees  in February. On my bookshelves is a book called 'Treasury of Tree Lore' which, although I've had it for years, has never had a mention here so it will be good to make use of it.

The weather forecast for the weekend is better here at last. It's the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch  but I see so few birds in the garden here it would be a very boring hour. It's one of my big regrets about moving into a village. But perhaps it will be dry enough to finally clear up the fallen leaves and weed round  the new fruit trees - jobs that have been waiting weeks. And  perhaps I'll pop out to collect some bags of multi purpose and seed compost so that I'm right ready to start in March plus I need a new feeder for the mealworms for the birds as the lid snapped on the one I have and the garden centre will have one. 

Hope you all have a good weekend and thank you to everyone for comments yesterday.

I'll be back Monday

Friday 26 January 2024

Anyone Need a Bookmark?

 I was looking to see if I could find anymore Bic biro pens as the ones I got a while ago from a boot sale had almost run out except the red ones, and I don't like writing in red .So I had a tidy of the small drawer in my coffee table (writing case, address book, accounts book, book of books read, squares of card for shopping lists, pens, pencils etc) and then a drawer in the chest of drawers in my bedroom that holds rolls of sellotape, masking tape, parcel tape, pritt stick glue, jars of paperclips, drawing pins, elastic bands and many more random things that don't have a home anywhere else now  I don't have a craft room and desk.

I didn't find any more pens but I did collect together all these bookmarks. As I only ever read one book at a time I doubt I'll need most of these. What's odd is that all those in the middle are from Persephone Books and feature the end papers from their books which are always material patterns dating from the period in which the book is set and on the back is a precis of the story. They include them with the books when they sell them and with their Biannually Newsletter.
But I've not had many brand new Persephone books  and don't always receive the Biannually Newsletter so most of these must have been in second-hand books (Haven't found a Persephone in a charity shop for ages.....sadly).

The tattiest ones are now in the bin and the Persephone's will fill a page in my scrapbook............ because I really don't need 20 book marks in my drawers or in my life!

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 25 January 2024

25th January is the Conversion of St Paul's Day - With Music!

 This is a strange piece of music that you may never have heard before. Unfortunately the only place I could find it on you tube it cuts out after a few bars for ads.(or it may not when uploaded)

It's by David Grant and the Community Gospel Choir with music by Mike Read and words by John Betjeman. It comes from a CD called Words/Music which has many poems of Betjeman's set to music and sung by different artists. It was intended to become a musical of the life of John Betjeman but the CD was as far as it got.

I bought the CD in 2006 because on Radio 2 Terry Wogan began playing 'Myfanwy' sung by David Essex and I was a David Essex fan. I've never come across anyone else who has ever heard of the CD/Failed Musical.

The Conversion of St Paul, poem by Sir John Betjeman
What is conversion? Not at all
For me the experience of St Paul,
No blinding light, a fitful glow
Is all the light of faith I know
Which sometimes goes completely out
And leaves me plunging into doubt
Until I will myself to go
And worship in God’s house below —
My parish church — and even there
I find distractions everywhere.
What is Conversion? Turning round
To gaze upon a love profound.
For some of us see Jesus plain
And never once look back again,
And some of us have seen and known
And turned and gone away alone,
But most of us turn slow to see
The figure hanging on a tree
And stumble on and blindly grope
Upheld by intermittent hope.
God grant before we die we all
May see the light as did St Paul

I wrote about St Paul's conversion and photographed the pages from the saints book HERE in 2021 so won't repeat myself, but this is the weather rhyme that was once well known for this day - covering all eventualities!

If St. Paul's Day be fair and clear,
It doth betide a happy year;
But if by chance it then should rain,
It will make dear all kinds of grain;
And if the clouds make dark the sky,
Then neate* and fowls this year shall die;
If blustering winds do blow aloft,
Then wars shall trouble the realm full oft.

* Neate is an old word for cattle

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Village Houses

 My village isn't famously interesting like some.  It's a typical Suffolk village that has grown and grown, although it still has a church,  primary school, pub, shop and post office, fish and chip shop and a doctors  so we are very lucky - and perhaps not so typical after all!. 
It has two small meeting places - the little United Reformed Church and the even smaller Old School Room. When enough money has been raised it will have a new Community Hall too and the Scouts are raising money for a new Scout Hall after theirs was condemned. 

 It also has lots of houses, from the very old..........(which my Great, Great Grandparents would have known when they lived in the village  in the second half of the 1800's)

 to the new estate of 28 homes being built at the other end of the village and houses have been built on all small pieces of land. Where once there was a coach company there are houses, where the old village hall was in the 1980's there are houses, where a big orchard belonging to one of the villages 'Big Houses' once was, there are very smart houses with a private road to them.

The very Old Fire Station is a house

As is the Old Telephone Exchange

and the Old Post Office

Eventually - when the housing market improves -  another estate will be built on most of this field at my end of the village.

A small piece of overgrown land has just been cleared - I'm guessing whoever owns it is planning on applying for planning permission to build here too

But in the middle of the village is  something much older than all the houses . A glacial erratic, supposedly used in the C15 for outdoor preaching by wandering friars and later by John Wesley.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 23 January 2024


 I wrote about starlings on the feeders a year ago. They are back regularly again, and can easily get through a feeder full of dried mealworms in less than a day.

This years photos are much the same as last years.

Sometimes they seem to get very annoyed with each other!

When I was finding the poems about the Long Tailed Tits a couple of weeks ago I came across mention of a book of bird poems - 'The Poetry of Birds' gathered together by Simon Armitage - before he became Poet Laureate in 2019. It mentioned that John Clare (1793 -1864) wrote  about 147 different birds without the aid of binoculars or a camera (something I'd never considered) and I wondered how many of JC's poems were in the bird book.  I couldn't reserve the book at the library because I've got 25 on order or waiting for me to pick up and that's the maximum allowed and a copy on the shelves was at Felixstowe - no plans to go there until the weather warms up a bit!
I had a look on Amazon and a copy would have been £3.80, then I looked on Abebooks and they had a copy for £2.80 - including postage so I ordered and it turned up in time to find poems about starlings for this post. (My low spend January had enough leeway for one book!)

This is the poem by John Clare from the book that mentions Starlings but he calls them Starnels, which must have been a local Northamptonshire name.

Autumn Birds

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught.
The flopping crows on weary wings go by
And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.
The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by,
And darken like a clod the evening sky.
The larks like thunder rise and suthy round,
Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.
The wild swan hurries high and noises loud,
With white necks peering to the evening cloud
The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
With length of tail the magpie winnows on
To neighbouring tree and leaves the distant crow
While small birds nestle in the hedge below.

Much more recently Ted Hughes (1930-1998) wrote...........

Starlings have come

A horde out of sub-Arctic Asia
Darkening nightfall, a faint sky-roar
Of pressure on the ear.

More thicken the vortex, gloomier.

A bacteria cyclone, a writhing of imps
Issuing from a hole in the horizon
Topples and blackens a whole farm.

Now a close up seething of fleas.

And now a silence -
The doom-panic mob listens, for a second.
Then, with a soft boom, they wrap you
Into their mind-warp, assembling a nightmare sky-wheel
Of escape - a Niagara
Of upward rumbling wings - that collapses again

In an unmanageable weight
Of neurotic atoms.
They're the subconscious
Of the smart-Alec, all slick hair and Adam's apple,
Sunday chimney starling.
This Elizabethan songster,
Italianate, in damask, emblematic,
Trembles his ruff, pierces the Maytime
With his perfected whistle
Of a falling bomb  - or frenzies himself
Into a Gothic, dishevelled madness,
Chattering his skeleton, sucking his brains,
Gargling his blood through a tin flute - Ah Shepster.

Suddenly such a bare dagger of listening!

Next thing - down at the bread
Screeching like a cat
Limber and saurian on your hind legs,

Tumbling the sparrows with a drop kick-

A Satanic hoodlum, a cross eyed boss,
Black body crammed with hot rubies
And Anthrax under your nails.

There are some good lines in this poem - I like  'With his perfected whistle of a falling bomb' which is very descriptive of one of the noises they make. Not sure about Anthrax under your nails that sounds a bit nasty!

 I had to look up why starlings are called Shepster and it comes from their habit of landing on sheep's backs to find and peck off ticks and flies and while doing that I found an interesting blog post by 'Squirrel basket' HERE . The most recent post from this lady mentions "Following a tree" which I'd totally forgotten about. It was something I joined in with for a few months in 2014
Perhaps I ought to do it again - it would fill a blog post every month.

Back Tomorrow

Monday 22 January 2024

January 22nd. St Vincent's Day

Still short of ideas so here's another saint for the collection!

 St  Vincent of Saragossa  was born around Huesca in Spain, ordained by the Bishop of Saragossa and ordered to minister to the people in that part of Spain. At that time the governor Dacian was trying to stamp out Christianity and killed 18 believers in AD303 and ordered Vincent to be stretched on a rack, and laid on a grid iron of heated bars. Realising he couldn't break the will of Vincent he had him thrown in prison where Christians cared for him. But  he had suffered too much and died, still praising Jesus,  in AD 304.
Dacian's hatred of Vincent continued after his death when he ordered Vincent's body to be thrown in a bog. A raven protected the body of the saint and drove away any animal that came to attack the holy relics. 

Now his day is only remembered in weather rhymes.

Remember on St Vincent's Day,
If the sun his beams display,
Be sure to mark his transient beam,
Which through the casement sheds a gleam; 
For 'tis a token bright and clear
of prosperous weather all the year

He became the patron saint of wine growers and drunkards - perhaps due to this old saying.

If Saint Vincent Day the sky is clear,
More wine than water will crown the year

(Information from A Calendar Of Saints by James Bentley, the internet and Chambers Book of Days)

Back Tomorrow



Saturday 20 January 2024

Rushing Through the Month and Through Three Books

 Two thirds of January gone already and I'm very much enjoying the hibernation. I've either been at home or walking in the village and have only left home by car for the exercise group, shopping and then swimming.

Finally, after 3 months, I got back to the swimming pool. They'd reintroduced a public swimming session time that was available this time last year but not in the Autumn term and was OK for me - not too early, not to late and not when I want to be eating my lunch! I managed 30 minutes  slow swimming with only a few stops to get my breath. Not too bad, considering. Freezing cold going out of the pool building though - on a minus degree morning.

I started reading the first new library book on Thursday evening and by Monday evening I'd finished was a novella but even so that's a bit speedy and means I'll run out of library books way before February's van visit.

First to be finished was 'The Port of London Murders' by Josephine Bell. This is a British Library Crime Classic first published in 1938. Unusually for 'Golden Age' crime this isn't set in a locked room in a posh country house with an amateur detective but in the slums of London's Dockland and as such it is real social history document.

The story starts with the late arrival to the docks of the San Angelo a British owned boat with a mixed cargo from the East and the discussion of the worried shipping agent on the phone . Then we are taken to a party of bright young things drinking and dancing late into the night and it starts to feel a bit complicated because the next chapter is about some of the boatmen and an accident to one of the young boys living by the river and then to the people living in one of the slum houses waiting to be demolished.
I was beginning to feel a bit lost with all the different parts to the story that didn't seem to link together but persevered as it is very well written.

As the story moves on it gradually ties together all the different people and the reasons for some very strange things that had been washed overboard and ends up being a very clever story.

Second book was this quick read, because it goes at such a fast pace it has to be read quickly to keep up!
I'd read a couple of books in this series before and there are many, many more but I'd forgotten they are a bit too unbelievable and very violent.
This story has forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod travelling to the Isle of Skye after the discovery of a decomposing foot, caught in a fisherman's net. But straight away the Ministry of Defence want the find kept secret.
I've reserved another to try but they are not my favourite sort of crime stories and it might be my last.

And finally the novella. This must have been the last book Anne Perry wrote before she died in 2023. She had been writing these Christmas novellas for many years and they are usually a good short read. They are all set in the Victorian period and often feature characters from her other Victorian series.

When Mariah Ellison arrives to visit her friend Sadie Alsop for Christmas- she has been invited and even sent the train time - she finds Sadie has disappeared and her husband doesn't seem bothered and refuses to let Mariah stay. She eventually finds another friend to stay with and then starts searching. But it seems Sadie has lots of secrets and so do many of the other people in the village.


If you've been watching Vera on TV the last two Sundays make the most of tomorrows episode as according to the Radio Times it might be the last. Brenda Blethyn is 77 and has said she may not make anymore. Although who knows. They carried on making Taggert after Marc McManus died, and Morse turned into Lewis after John Thaw retired, so anything's possible.

And mentioning the Radio Times, the new edition has 50 questions taken from University Challenge, Mastermind, Only Connect and QI. I'll be having a go at them during the week - wonder how many I'll answer - probably not a lot!

Have a good weekend
I'll be back Monday

Friday 19 January 2024

January 19th is St Wulfstan's Day

(I'm a bit short of ideas for blog posts so resorting to a few  saints over the next few days!)

When the Normans conquered England in 1066 King William replaced every English bishop with one of his own men. Every bishop except Wulfstan who had been educated in an English monastery,  become a monk in Worcester and made bishop there in 1062. He was known to be a very Saintly man - perhaps that was why he was spared and was the nephew of Archbishop Wulfstan who had previously been Bishop of Worcester and  Archbishop of York
Wulfstan tried to stop a slave trade based in Bristol and rebuilt Worcester cathedral. He remained Bishop for 32 years and died in 1095.After his death news spread of miraculous cures that took place at his tomb and he was canonized in 1203.
Later King John requested to be buried next to Wulfstan's tomb in Worcester after he died. And he was buried there in 1216.

From St Johns, Worcester

As a true English Saint I do think he ought to have some weather rhymes attached to his day - but nothing is mentioned anywhere.

(Info from 'A Calendar of Saints' by James Bentley and from internet)

Thanks everyone for comments about the batch cooking, sorry for not answering -  I fell into some internet rabbit holes looking for things to blog about next week! Luckily I found a good ideas. 

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 18 January 2024

1 Butternut Squash, 1 Roll of Puff Pastry.........

......... 1small roll of goats cheese , 1 pot Korma curry paste, 2 onions, some frozen spinach, 1 tin of coconut milk and a few other bits and bobs plus a lot of time faffing in the kitchen and I had 10 meals. 6 vegetable Korma curries and 4 vegetable and goats cheese pasties.

It seemed to take ages and made a lot of washing up but I'll have forgotten about that when  it comes to the eating.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Old Twelfth Night and Wassailing

 I didn't get outside to Wassail my small apple trees on the modern twelfth night on the 6th - it was probably raining, so must do it tonight which was twelfth night before the calendars changed in 1752. It was still called 'old twelfy' in  parts of the country up to the C19. I have a can of cheap cider in the cupboard right ready.

Wassail is a very old word, coming from the Anglo-Saxon  Drinking toast  "Waes Hael" meaning "be of good health" to which the answer was "Drinc Hael". This has been recorded in old medieval English and earlier in the epic 'Beowulf' poem and there is also a toasting scene on the Bayeux Tapestry. It was definitely well known by the mid C13 not just as a personal drinking toast  but as a festive occasion around Christmas with drinking and entertainment.

On Twelfth night in the past there were two different types of Wassailing. The first was moving door to door around the village singing and carrying a wassailing bowl and the second was a ceremony taking place in orchards, blessing the trees for a good crop next year. In the C19  farm workers were often paid in cider during the harvest, so it was important the trees were healthy and produced plenty of fruit......... at one time there were 400 varieties of  apples and an orchard on every farm in every village and an apple tree in every cottage garden. 

The tradition has come and gone and then "reawakened" more recently, often by groups of Morris Dancers and folk singers.

So that's what I'll be doing, blessing the apple trees and pouring cider on the roots, although I won't be shouting - the neighbours are a bit close for that!

Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hope thou wilt bear
For the lord doth know where we shall be, till apples come another year
To bear well and bloom well so merry let us be 
Let every man take off his hat and shout to the old apple tree..........
SHOUT ......
Old Apple tree we wassail thee, and hope that thou will bear
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full,
And a little heap under the stair.
Hip, Hip Hooray!

All the information here comes from my book, which I found at a car boot sale a few years ago.

Back  Tomorrow

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Aegithalos caudatus

 Almost exactly a year since I included photos of the Aegithalos caudatus, better known as  Long Tailed Tits, flying onto the feeders, here they are again. I love to see them - always arriving in a group and flitting between the feeders and the Ceanothus. 

Long Tailed Tits were birds I'd never seen until they came to the feeders at the smallholding in the 1990's but they must have been more common in other parts of the country because they have a whole list of local dialect names (info originally from Birds Britannica ) but I've never heard of a Suffolk word for them, and they aren't mentioned in my Suffolk dialect book so maybe they weren't so common in Suffolk until garden bird feeding became popular.

Bumbarrel, Hedge Mumruffin, Poke Pudding, Huggen-Muffin, Juffit, Fuffit, Jack-in-a-Bottle, Bottle Tom, Bum Towel,  Prinpriddle, Feather Poke, Long-tailed Mag, Long-tailed Farmer, Can Bottle, Hedge Jug, Bottle Bird, Barrel Tom, Patiney, Patteny Paley, Ragamuffin, Bellringer, Nimble Tailor, French Pie, Bottle-tit, Billy-featherpoke, Long-tailed Chittering, Puddneypoke, Bottle Builder, Dog Tail, Long Pod, Bush Oven, Oven Bird and Millithrum (Miller’s Thumb)  – all names for a common English bird of hedgerow and heath – the long-tailed tit.

The one name that gets mentioned in poems by the countryside poet John Clare (1793-1864) is Bumbarrel - it's thought this name for them comes from the oval dome-shaped nest they build. This must have been the common name for them in Northamptonshire, where Clare lived.

Emmonsail’s Heath In Winter

I love to see the old heath’s withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps its melancholy wing,
An oddling crow in idle motion swing
On the half-rotten ash-tree’s topmost twig,
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the haw round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again

and again in the May section of his book of long poems 'The Shepherds Calendar' he writes

Bum-barrels twit on bush and tree
Scarse bigger then a bumble bee
And in a white thorn’s leafy rest
It builds its curious pudding-nest
Wi' hole beside as if a mouse
Had built the little barrel house.

and yet again in a poem about their nests

The oddling bush, close sheltered hedge new-plashed,
Of which spring's early liking makes a guest
First with a shade of green though winter-dashed
There, full as seen, bumbarrels make a nest
Of mosses grey with cobwebs closely tied
And warm and rich as feather-bed within,
With little hole on it's contrary side
That pathway peepers may no  knowledge win
Of what her little oval nest contains -
Ten eggs and often twelve with dusts of red
Soft frittered -

- and full soon the little lanes
Screen the young crowd and hear the twitt'ring song
Of the old birds who call them to be fed
While down the hedge they hang and hide along.

(From Bumbarrel's Nest)

I've never seen one of their nests but they've been deconstructed and found to contain as many as 2,300 feathers and covered with up to 3,000 flakes of lichen and all constructed in as few as 3 days.

Back Tomorrow

Monday 15 January 2024

Looking in the Seed Tin

 Investigating what seeds are  needed for growing this year is not as much fun as it once was. My tin used to be full of packets as we grew almost everything, now I don't need so much.

I'll be growing much the same as last year........ tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peppers and aubergines in the greenhouse. French climbing and runner beans plus beetroot, courgettes, leeks, sweetcorn and butternut squash in the garden. 
There's no point growing onions here and as the purple sprouting broccoli has been completely decimated by pigeons it seems little point in trying to grow any over wintering 'greens'. I spent ages protecting the plants all summer and they still looked sad and fell over and unless I have a tall walk in netting cage for winter, I'm never going to have any success here. It's going to be much cheaper to buy rather than grow and I can have more variety that way too.

So all I need to buy are  more beetroot, pepper, tomato, sweetcorn and squash seeds and that's about it. Although if I see early leek seedlings at the pet and garden shop in Diss like I found last year I'll get them and just grow later ones from seed.

I'll buy  parsley and basil plants from the supermarket later. Splitting the parsley seedlings and growing them outside and in the greenhouse and propagating basil cuttings in water to make several plants for the greenhouse.

Back Tomorrow


Saturday 13 January 2024

The January Library Book Photo

 I was very glad to find the flood that I photographed a week ago had gone  (another tanker came and pumped out the drains again) because the lay-by in front of the houses is where the mobile library stops and I didn't fancy wading to the van! - Although of course the library lady wouldn't have stopped in the middle of it!

These are the 9 books brought home - all ones I'd reserved on line. Mostly crime fiction again. 

The book about the artists at the back is a  'looking at' book. I've been interested in these artists since the Persephone book 'Long Live Great Bardfield' and finding some postcards of Ravilious paintings.
I'm not sure why I reserved the other non-fiction book - 'Eating With The Tudors', it looks a bit heavy going.
I've already started 'The Port of London Murders' which is a British Library Crime Classic reprint which I'd missed reading when it was first published in 2020. 'Big Ben Strikes Eleven' is another BLCC, this one published last year and is an author I don't know so I hope it's readable.
At the bottom of the heap is the 24th and latest in the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Last month I only brought home 5 books and read 4 out of the five, so have been reading from my shelves. Everything read is on the Books read 2023 and new 2024 pages.

 The weather forecast is still talking about cold weather next week although they were completely wrong for the week just gone. 
Hope you have a good weekend, whatever the weather, I'll be back Monday.

Friday 12 January 2024

Charity Shops and Not Spending

 Why didn't I know there was a 'new' charity shop in Stowmarket that had been there since last July? An independent, not part of a chain, run by the lady who ran one a few years ago. Her old shop was a treasure trove of junk crammed floor to ceiling. This new one is smaller and tidier and not so interesting.

 While in town for fresh food last week I did a tour of all seven charity shops and found nothing at all. Which was very good for a low spending month. I didn't feel the need to venture out for bargains in the January sales either. 

I had a bit of a wardrobe/chest of drawers sort out and added a couple of things to the charity shop bag. I'll definitely need some strappy vest tops for summer as I wear them under tunic tops in winter and several are looking very sad as are some bits of underwear. Shades of Grey comes to mind when I hang them out on the whirly!
No shoes will be needed this year as I bought two pairs of the summer shoes that I like in the sales last January. Most of my pairs of shorts are still OK but I always need a new tee-shirt or two each summer as the old charity shop ones get tatty.
It's looking hopeful for a low-spend in the clothes department, both strappy vest tops and tee-shirts are usually easy enough to find in charity shops.
Next winter I'll need a couple of new pairs of leggings - some have been mended too often to survive another winter.

And hopefully not a lot will be needed in the house after last years big spend on the sofa and chair and the much smaller spend on the second-hand nest of 3 tables. (Now I've said that something will probably break-down!) and I bought a new duvet and another 300 count fitted sheet in December so that's another area where nothing will be spent in 2024.

I'm looking for no spend and low spend in all areas for the rest of this month because the heating oil tank will probably need 500 or 600 litres at the end of February depending how cold it is for the rest of the winter months. 

Back Tomorrow