Friday, 31 July 2015

The blue moon

Tonight there was a blue moon. It turns out that this is the term for a calendar month that has two full moons in it. Whilst looking into why we call it a blue moon I discovered that apparently there is a name given to each full moon throughout the year:
January: the Wolf Moon
February: the Snow Moon
March: the Worm Moon
April: the Pink Moon
May: the Flower Moon
June: the Strawberry Moon
July: the Buck Moon
August: the Sturgeon Moon
September: the Harvest Moon
October: the Hunter's Moon
November: the Beaver Moon
December: the Cold Moon
Apparently the names were attributed by native Americans (Guardian).

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Hummingbird Hawk moth

The blur in this picture is a Hummingbird Hawk moth taking nectar from the buddleia. Apparently they migrate to us from warmer countries during June and their sightings here are on the increase. In Italy it's believed to be a good omen if you spot one and they are certainly fascinating to watch.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Poppies on the move

Last year we gave our neighbour some hard core for his gate entrance and I smile to see that we also gave him some of our numerous poppy seeds too!

Redcurrant Jelly

I use my mother's recipe to make jelly using redcurrants picked from our neighbour. It is easy to do, especially as when you cook it up you don't have to string the fruit as the extract goes through a jelly cloth later. Harder to work out was where to hang the newly purchased jelly bag from - eventually I used a contraption involved a wine bucket and two long metal skewers! The only disappointment as a first time maker was that the yield, compared to jam, it's very low: not quite four little jars from a large bowl of fruit.


This is a glimpse of my sewing task which is keeping me occupied when not working outside. (At this time of year having both indoor and outdoor activities is essential). I am making a cross stitch border to represent all the different groups that get together in Doveridge, it is a WI project showing key places in the village where we meet, however once people saw what they had to do many claimed poor eyes and stiff fingers as an excuse making it impossible for them to participate! I have ended up therefore with a task rather larger than I envisaged when I recklessly answered 'yes' to the 'could I do cross stitch' question.


These photos were taken after walking up and back down the lane last night after checking the chickens were all in bed. The sky was very dark after a spectacular downpour and then the moon was revealed between the clouds. The 'girls' are always very pleased to see me. The one in the centre adores raspberries and will almost cry for them, but it is also living dangerously as it can somehow get out of the barbed wire topped enclosure.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Well, well, well ...

Dave looking understandably pleased with his bricklaying skills. Whilst I've been showing a friend how to make jam, he has been outside extending the courses around the well, so that when we fill in the hole around it we can still access the cover. He has made a very neat job. Most recently the well was used to provide water to the adjacent dairy where it cooled the milk.


Our apple trees have plenty of fruit ripening on them so far. This is an early variety 'Discovery' which due to its short shelf life is rarely available to buy commercially. If one day we have enough, it also makes good juice.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Pantry time

Dave has added more shelving to the pantry and today I got to play house, putting everything back and arranging all the items. You will note the steadily growing shelf of preserves above the saucepans! All the getting up and down on the steps to place things was a pretty good workout too!

Sunday, 26 July 2015


I have done an enormous amount of gardening, planting out my tomatoes and chillies, sowing some more French beans, planting out sad little cauliflowers and cabbage (with tin foil strips to deter the birds). After all this I am delighted today that we have steady fine rain as the ground is so dry I had to carefully water everything and Dave has just connected up the hosepipe so we can reach the poor parched hedge. We have had very little rainfall this summer so far.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Another new butterfly

I thought because of the strange double arrangement of its wings and its broad body that this was actually a moth but looking online I see that it is a Large Skipper.
Like many other skippers, the male of this species alternates between perching, patrolling, basking and feeding. Patrolling behaviour is normally exhibited late-morning, with perching behaviour the norm in the early morning and afternoon. When perching, the males will defend their territory vigorously, and see off any butterfly that intrudes. Typical perches are sunlit leaves at a height of around a metre from the ground. Both sexes take nectar, and are particularly fond of Bramble and Thistle. (source:
My verbena bonariensis was obviously making a change from the abundance of brambles and thistles that we also kindly provide!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A huge bonfire

We have been saving material for a bonfire since the start of the year and today with our hay removed from the field and the wind a mere light breeze (as close to calm as it gets up here) we decided it was time to burn. It was amazing how quickly a mass of dry weeds and hedge pruning disappeared. The Christmas tree provided a particularly brief but spectacular display. It began to gently spit with rain which just added to the perfect conditions, helping make sure nothing ignited by accident. Amongst the things to go on the pyre where my huge woody parsnips and after several hours in the embers their smell was most tempting!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


The buddleia is perfuming the air at the moment when you first come out into the garden and it's attracting plenty of butterflies and bees. It was a seedling that came with us in a pot from our previous home and last year hadn't really settled in enough to flower.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


I finally decided that my monster parsnips were past their best and had to come up. I was expecting to have to tug and tug like the story of the giant turnip, but in fact the root was only the perfectly normal size and they came out easily. I have carted them up to the bonfire heap which is waiting for a still day.


I find the perfect way to air my very hot boots after a stint of weed clearing!


Our poor hedge has got very weedy but until the hay was cut I couldn't really get to it to clear the base. Today however I started and although I thought I was about to give myself heatstroke I managed to finish clearing the section by the road. It was very humid and made worse by the need to wear a jacket to protect my arms and wellington boots to protect my legs! I was so pleased to get under the shower. Two days later and I'm now clearing another section which is full of huge thistles. I worked until lunchtime when it had started to rain so I look both hot and bedraggled. I notice that I match the thistle (maybe I thought if I was camouflaged they couldn't spot me coming! Sometimes I wonder at my decision to be organic and not use weedkiller!

Monday, 20 July 2015


This is the result from a couple of days of minding the neighbours chickens - it's just as well that I'm doing it in two short stints this time or I'd be running out of uses for them! We've had omelettes, quiches and sponge cakes so far! The yolks are an amazing deep yellow.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


Despite two separate attempts we haven't managed to find anyone who would like to keep their hives here at Hill Farm. I would love to have bees and honey but don't have the confidence to keep them myself. Everywhere I look there are wild ones enjoying the nectar that we provide, here from a foxglove that I saved as a seedling and planted in my vegetable patch between the pumpkins.


My courgettes are growing very well and the shower of rain (so welcome for the parched garden) is threatening to turn them into marrows. Tom and his girlfriend stopped over en route to a family christening and so I was able to send Clare home with a handful of courgettes which she turned into a delicious looking dish of 'courgetti'  (made using a spiralizer which turns the courgettes into spaghetti like strips).

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Evening sky

It's been windy today but now there are cumulus clouds forming and the evening sun is falling on the fields opposite throwing the rows of crop into sharp relief, I think it's barley and it must be almost ready for harvest.


I was pleased to add a new variety of butterfly to the list of those seen here at Hill Farm. It was hard to get a good photo as most of the time it was on the wing settling only very briefy (but in this case it stayed still just long enough for me to photograph and identify it).


In the midst of my dark dahlia is a lone pink flower! I wonder how this happens when they are growing from the same tuber.

Not to be outdone

"How can you look at a mere pigeon when you could be admiring me!" Our very vain pheasant sticks his head up from the long grass to check I've seen him.


This pigeon was eating grit from the front of the house where we park our cars. The early sunshine caught the colours of his plumage and it shone with iridescence in the morning light. I also noticed a tag on his leg, maybe he was stopping off on his was home somewhere.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Making jam

I am 'chicken sitting' for our neighbours. They have lots of ripe blackcurrants and said I could help myself so I picked just over a pound of fruit today and used it to make four jars of jam. It's the first time I've made this variety and took care to simmer the fruit gently for a good thirty minutes so it was really soft before boiling it for a set, which happened in only five minutes after the sugar had fully dissolved. I made a sponge to fill with the jam and cream .... mmmm.


Today I thought I saw a pair of rabbits out with the hares. This was because all I could see were bobbing white tails as they chased about, but looking through the magnification of the camera lens I realised to my huge excitement that they were baby hares: leverets. They must be too little to tuck their tails down when they run as the adults do. It's probably hard to see from my photos below but the first is a baby with his tail up and beneath this is the adult with his tail tucked down!

A misty start

It was misty first thing and I had the chance to view the spire of the church in Doveridge with layers of mist behind it. There was mist in the field too but it rolled away quickly as the breeze picked up.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


This time we have had a go at making some suitably summery rose (sorry I can't put the accent in using blogger!) I was delighted to have a photo of our Morning Mist rose to adorn the label - now I just need some more ink so I can print them out and stick them on! Plus I'm hoping for some suitably summery weather to enjoy drinking it!

Just snacking

I was up early and delighted to see the hares out in the field. It was wet with dew and this obviously made their morning meal especially delicious. Dave is heading to Scotland for the 20th of his annual golfing trips and is hoping for good weather despite the forecast.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Gardening and sewing

Much of my time is taken up with gardening at the moment - that and planning out a WI cross stitch project which is alternately fun and frustrating (and I haven't even begun to sew!)