In Place


Bee hive

Bee hive now in place
in the corner of the field.
Anticipation.

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

This morning my local bee keeper brought his ‘nook’ hive up to our field and set it up. A ‘nook’ hive is a small temporary hive in which to establish a colony. In a few days he will return to check on progress and then, if all is well, begin the transfer to a proper hive. On being let out the bees circled around close to the hive to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and by the time of his next visit he will be able to see if they are returning to the hive and bringing in pollen. He expects to be able to tell if it is going to be a viable location within a few weeks so fingers crossed.

I had a good look round while I was up there with him and I am pleased to say there are a few brambles in the hedge along the roadside and may be more along the edges of the cattle/hay field, so hopefully if I take up some cuttings to plant they should take hold. I also noted that there were a few butterflies and hover flies settling on the clover and buttercups that are already in the field and this too is a good sign. Next job is to order the flower meadow seed and plan the sewing, although it will take at least until next year for positive results so I’m hoping there will be enough to keep the bees on site while the meadowland becomes established.

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Bees

I have mentioned here before that we used to run a small-holding. Several years ago we ‘down-sized’, selling the house and some of the land whilst retaining a 9-acre field with a big new barn. We moved a mile down the road into the nearby small town. In the 9-acre field we fenced an area from the road gate down to behind the barn plus a bit and the rest of the field we now let to the neighbouring farmer for cattle gazing and hay making. The fenced-off area has an opening (which can be closed off) into the field that we sold with the house so that the sheep that graze there from time to time can also graze around the barn to keep the grass down.

Over the last few years I have often thought of finding a beekeeper to keep one or two hives on our field. We are always hearing how much the bees need our help and have been keen to do my bit – short of learning to keep bees myself! Earlier in the year I turned this idea into action and advertised to see if anyone was interested in having a hive or two on our land. I eventually had one reply, from someone with whom we are already acquainted but who I hadn’t thought to ask directly! After various communication problems, not helped by our long absence in the spring, we eventually managed to get together and meet up at the field last Friday to discuss the proposal.

To say I was a little disappointed in that he didn’t seem over enthusiastic about the possibilities is a bit of an understatement. It just shows how naïve a lay person can be. We had grassed the land many years ago after it had been used for a cereal crop and the grass mix contained clover – ideal for bees one thinks. No. Apparently the clover in modern grass mixes is good for fixing nitrogen in the soil but does not produce the right sort of nectar that bees like. Modern farming methods and grassland management are bee sterile and I do have to admit there is not much in the way of wild flowers in and around our field. He was not particularly hopeful that the bees would do well there, but he has a hive that is about ready to move onto a site and is prepared to give it a go for a season.

The upshot of this is that this morning my husband and youngest son have been fencing off the bottom part of the fenced-off area so that the sheep will not knock over any hives that might be there and with a bit of luck the first hive should arrive within a week, although the honey season is practically over for this year.

I have now been giving much thought to how to make the area more honey bee friendly. To be fair there are a few houses opposite and up the lanes near-by that have nice flowery gardens and I know that some the occupants of at least one of these houses has had a beehive in the garden in the past. Our field has damson and elderberry in the hedge which should provide some spring foraging and I noticed that in the hedge between our barn and our previously owned field there is some dog-rose growing. The beekeeper bemoaned the lack of bramble, which apparently is good for the bees, so I am thinking of collecting some bramble with roots from our home garden (where I can’t get rid of it!) and planting it in the hedges up at the field. Will it take? I don’t know. I don’t know why such a ubiquitous ‘weed’ doesn’t grow there anyway, so this will be something of an experiment.

Additionally I am researching into ways to turn the fenced-off area into a wildlife meadow, starting with the smaller area we have just fenced round for the hive and expanding it if it works. It looks like this is the right time to do it as September-October, I understand, is a good time to sew the seeds. I can order mixes on-line for the clay soil of our field which can be sewn in existing grassland (no need to plough up and prepare the soil). However you do still need to create ‘bare’ patches by raking or harrowing over the ground.

As it happens we already have a bare patch where, until recently, an old shipping container used for storage was standing – I just need to loosen the soil and, before any unwanted weeds get hold, sew the mix there for a quick and easy start-up. I can’t wait to get started and am really excited about the idea of creating a new area of traditional wild-flower meadowland for birds and butterflies as well as, of course, the honey bees.

Cycling Again!

No Haiku today as I have now finished posting all 10 of my Holiday Haiku (the 10th, about falling off my bike was posted first!). This has actually worked out quite well as I shall be away for the weekend so I can start afresh on my return.

By the time you read this we will be in York for Cycling UK’s ‘York Rally’ which takes place from Friday 21st to Monday 24th June. We attended last year and enjoyed it so much that this year we are going as volunteer helpers from Thursday 20th – a day earlier than the official start of the Rally. This is making it rather confusing for me as I am writing this post on Wednesday to schedule for today, Friday (we have an early start on Thursday morning!).  We will be in our Motorhome with no electric hook-up or much in the way of WIFI so I am not even bothering to take my computer with me; I will not, therefore, be posting anything here for Monday but should be back on-line on Wednesday next week.

Being helpers does not mean we will miss out on the cycling and we are particularly looking forward to the Retro Ride which is a new addition to the programme on Saturday. We have our classic road racing bikes with us for this, but we also have one of our tandems for any other rides. The Rally offers a choice of several rides each day and other than the Retro Ride we have not yet decided which others we might do. We’ll wait until we get there to choose from the full programme and as usual I will report on the event on our return.

 

Travellers Return

I’m back. We have returned from approximately 8 weeks travelling through France and Spain in our motorhome. We have had a mixed bag of weather – snow (yes, snow), rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and I admit, some hot days with sunshine – enough to at least show some slight signs of a suntan (I’m fair skinned and don’t tan easily at the best of times), but generally a lot colder than we are used to when visiting this time of the year.

Family at La Pedals de CLip

Photo from La Pedals de Clip website

I now have an awful lot of catching up to do so I don’t intend to give you chapter and verse of my time away. However one thing we did do is take part once again La Pedals de Clip, a rally for classic road-race bikes, together with our daughter. I have reported on this event in the past (here) so there is no need for me to fully explain it again. Basically it is a fun event that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, very friendly and enjoyable. My husband and I both rode our Henry Burton classic bikes (built locally to our home in the UK) and our daughter rode her James Fothergill which was built in Liverpool. At one point I thought I might not be able to take part, having taken a tumble from my bike a couple of weeks before the event and hurt my elbow rather badly – beware of pedestrians in Spain, they have right of way apparently and do not always look before stepping out to cross the road! (Hubby stopped suddenly to avoid hitting the pedestrian and I crashed into hubby’s bike.) Fortunately the pain had subsided sufficiently by the ride day, although I did ache a bit afterwards!

Always a fairly tough ride, up and hill and down dale with a final 1Km hill climb to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca where the event finishes, this year’s ride was tougher than last time we did it due to an almost continuous strong headwind all the way round. (I gather that last year’s event, which we didn’t do, was worse as the weather was very cold and wet.)

We made one or two interesting observations at the cycling event. First we got the impression that there seemed to be slightly fewer participants than previously – possible due to last year’s weather – but there did seem to be more younger people in evidence, which must bode well for the future of the event. I also got the impression that there was not as many females this time and in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was probably one of the oldest females, if not the oldest, taking part.

Before we went away I challenged myself to write at least one poem a week during the holiday. Usually when on holiday I do very little writing other than keeping a journal so I decided I wanted to make better use of some of my ‘spare time’. Although I didn’t literally  write a poem every week, (some weeks I wrote two and then maybe nothing for the next week) overall I wrote 9 poems plus 2 Elfje, 2 Tanka and 10 Haiku or Senryu and I wrote my usual journal. I have impressed myself – not bad for just under 8 weeks away! Most of the poems do need some further polishing (I didn’t say they were good poems!) but I hope to share the Elfje, Tanka and Haiku/Senryu with you over the coming days, starting here with one about my little accident:

Falling off my bike
the road bites my arm and leg.
My elbow swells up.

 

Travels

I’m off on my travels again this weekend, in our Motorhome and we will be away for a couple of months. As we have often done before we will be travelling through France and into Spain to visit our daughter. We try to go via a different route each time so that we see more of the two countries which is always fun. Our youngest son, who lives at home, will be in charge in our absence.

One of the problems we have when travelling in the Motorhome is unreliable access to the Internet (we tend to stay in small villages rather than large towns with plenty of WiFi Cafes) so this means I will for the most part be off-line until we return in late May and therefore unable to post anything here. If I can I will.

Aware that I rarely, if ever, post any of my what I call my ‘proper’ poems I hope to share some of these with you while I am away, starting with one this coming Monday. All of these are poems that have previously been published elsewhere. I have also challenged myself to write at least one poem a week while we are away – but I will not be sharing these as they will need time to settle and receive several sessions of tweaking! Maybe some other time.

I look forward to seeing you back here again on my return.

Book Order

Not a Small Stone
but a moan…

In January I ordered and paid for a book from the USA. I was told it could arrive in two weeks but to allow up to 30 days. Yesterday I followed it up since 30 days have passed and it hasn’t arrived. I am now told to allow 45 days! What are they doing? Bringing it across by paddle steamer?

The Treacle Mines of Wem

Further to Monday’s post I would like to give you a bit more information about the treacle mines of Wem. I mentioned that the locals are known as Treacle Miners and I suspect this is because the town grew up around the mines to house the miners. Now, of course, due to the expansion of the town as time went by many inhabitants earn their living in other occupations, however they are still collectively referred to as Treacle Miners.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my children’s poem on the subject, taken from my book ‘Barking at Nothing’. For more information about the book, which is sold in aid of the charity ‘The Donna Louise Trust’ please refer to my Books page or go to my website at http://www.silverburnpublishing.co.uk.

The Treacle Mines of Wem

If ever I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle you could hope to find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.

They dig it up from where it’s found
In sticky globules underground,
They refine it and they ladle it
Into jars and label it,
And happily they’ll show you round.

The mines are dark and smell so sweet,
But you’ll get sticky hand and feet
So they give you special clothes
That cover you from head to toes.
And when you’ve looked you get a treat —

They let you sample treacle pud
And oh, it is so very good.
And toffee-apples you will find
With toffee of the richest kind
Made from Wem treacle, as it should.

So next time I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle in the world you’ll find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.
____________________________

There are many other treacle mines in England and, I believe, one or two in Scotland. Mines can be found anywhere from Devon and Somerset, through Kent and Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. In Lancashire too they can be found, immortalised by Ken Dodd and his Diddy Men who worked the mines in Knotty Ash – although come to think of it that was the jam butty mines not treacle mines.

For further information I can refer those of you who are interested to an article which can be found at the British Food History site here, although there is no mention of the Wem mines. (You may wish to note the date of the article).

 

Journaling

For several years I wrote ‘Morning Pages’, as writers are so often prompted to do. This is supposed to be ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, without thought, the idea being that when you read over what you have written later there may be something there that provides an inspiration for more serious writing. It never worked for me!

I wrote my Morning Pages religiously, at least 4 sides of A5 notebook every morning before I got up. It was complete and utter rubbish, nothing but pointless waffle, not one iota of inspiration hidden in the dross to inspire anything worth writing. Was I doing it wrong? Well, apparently there is no right or wrong way to do it. So I persevered, as I say, for several years, filling notebook after notebook with scribblings about the worries and concerns of my everyday life – what to cook for dinner, what to buy for someone’s birthday among other occasional more serious concerns and with a few nature observations here and there – but nothing to inspire a best-selling novel or even a decent poem. Stream of consciousness? Often I had to consciously think of something to write about, although I admit that once in the flow of the new topic it did stream out (I’m good at waffle), until I ran out of steam and had to think of another topic.

Eventually I decided enough was enough, I was wasting paper and ink for no apparent gain. For some time now I have not given so much as a thought to the idea of Morning Pages and have burned several of those rubbish filled notebooks, (although there are still some in the drawer of my bedside cabinet awaiting their turn on the fire).

Recently I have had something of a change of heart. Maybe I could do it differently. Part of the idea of these pages was as a form of mindfulness, subconsciously noticing things I suppose, in that stream of consciousness. Well ‘Small Stones’ share something of this idea too and I have also been writing these for many years. I enjoy writing these little poetic observation and have no intention of giving up.

Synchronicity had a hand in it perhaps, but recently I read a book that I picked up in a local charity shop; Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by the late Roger Deakin, ‘a writer, broadcaster and film maker with a particular interest in nature and the environment’. Walnut Tree Farm was his home in Suffolk and for the last six years of his life he kept notebooks about his impressions and observations around his home and other places he visited, people he met. Whether or not he wrote these notes everyday I don’t know, the book only claims to contain ‘the best of these writings’, but it occurred to me that here is my answer, I could do something similar. Most of my ‘stones’ are based on nature observation in my garden or when out and about so why not enlarge this perspective?

During the time I was reading the book I realised my awareness of what was going on around me was actually more acute than I had previously recognised or recorded, details I had thought too trivial to bother with. With this awareness came inspiration for some new poems and, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, after almost a couple of years without writing a single decent poem I came up with several.

My answer, I decided, was to write my own similar nature notes, make my Morning Pages more meaningful to me, not so much ‘stream of consciousness’ but more specifically aimed, while still dragging things out of my subconscious mind – i.e. a more deliberate and focused ‘Journaling’ rather than the aimless Morning Pages. Also I do not need the stress and pressure of doing this first thing in the morning, I will do it as and when I have something to write about, whatever time of day, while what I have observed is fresh in my mind. Nor do I need to do it every day – if I have had an ‘indoor’ day with no chance to observe then there is no need to write. My writing will not be as share-worthy as Roger Deakin’s, I do not have his level of knowledge and experience, but then mine is not intended for sharing.

I almost wish I had thought of this earlier and started at the beginning of the year, instead of just yesterday, but I have solved that wish by deciding to start with a summary of things I noticed in January and take it from there – no more Morning Pages but Journaling, I think this will suit me better and hopefully be more productive.

Christmas Break

Christmas Baubles

This will be my last post here until the New Year – I am taking my annual Christmas break from the internet.

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas season as you celebrate in your own way and look forward to seeing you again in 2019.

Running Ragged

I always seem to get stressed out on the run up to Christmas and this year is no exception, in fact Christmas seems to be catching up on me even quicker than usual. I have been so busy lately I have hardly made a start on the preparations.

What I intended to write about today has gone out of the window. I got very little sleep last night for some reason and I have spent most of today trying to do some Christmas shopping. Not without some success of course, I have managed to buy a fair few of the gifts that need to be posted but there are still some outstanding and I haven’t started on the ones for the family members that I will see over the Christmas period, nor all the little extras – stocking fillers, tree presents etc. – that go towards the fun of the day.

Apart from that I have not even thought about decorating the house and setting up the Christmas tree yet and I shall need to give the house a thorough clean first of course. I have not written any Christmas cards, I haven’t made even my first batch of mince pies this year and I have not yet made my Christmas cake. In a weak moment while shopping this morning I did contemplate buying the cake (I have done on a few occasions in the past) but I do prefer home-made and I have already bought the ingredients so it would be a bit of a waste if I just buy one. The recipe I am using requires some of the ingredients to soak overnight so my plan now is to do that preparation this evening and then I will have to make the cake tomorrow afternoon when I get home from my Spanish class.

Talking of which, this week it is my turn to provide the activities and refreshments for the group (we take it in turns) and the preparation for this occupied my weekend. I have an article for them to read and translate about Spanish Christmas customs and then we shall have a fun game about Christmas Carols and songs – at least I hope it will be fun. Each member of the group will draw a piece of paper from a Christmas stocking and must describe in Spanish the carol or song written on the paper without giving the title away and the others must try to guess what it is.

Other intrusions into my Christmas preparation time include a visit to the dentist this week and then, much more enjoyably two Christmas parties – one for the Spanish group and one for my poetry group. Then it is the final run up to the big day and at last a chance to relax as my son and his family are hosting at their house. Then they all come to us to do it all again on Boxing Day, but by then I should be ready.

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