Monday, 28 November 2016

Christmas is coming

An arrangement of advent flowers and wrapped inside the tissue paper ... a pomegranate. We had a lovely lunch with friends today and these seemed seasonally appropriate 'thank you' gifts!

And other birds

While I was trying to photograph the Redwings I noticed that there were also a number of smaller birds enjoying the sunshine and the insect life on offer in our hedge.


Now the Redwings have arrived and our tall holly hedging is full of their chatter, but although I can hear them, they are so deeply inside the bushes they are very hard to see, fortunately this bird flew into the adjacent hawthorn so I could grab a photo.

Oak trees

A real feature of our Derbyshire Dales landscape are the beautiful oak trees which are found growing along so many of the hedgerows. Despite last weeks gale they still have their glorious golden brown autumn leaves and the low sun meant that when I got up this morning the trees were glowing in the early light. Sadly someone accidentally hedgecut our own young oaks a couple of weeks ago ...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Greening the church

It's been a lovely sunny day with, for once, no wind so it was a real pleasure to walk around our hedgerows collecting holly, ivy, rosehips and hawthorn to take down to church where a small group of us arranged the greenery in readiness for advent. St Peter's looks perfect with such simple and timeless decoration.

The setting sun

Tonight the setting sun looked amazing. I'd run upstairs to shut the window before going out and simply had to stay and watch as it quickly slid down below the horizon. It was 4pm (exactly 12 hours since I was outside watching the stars!)

Brilliant stars

I woke this morning at 4 and the stars were so brilliant I took a mug of tea outside to enjoy the spectacle. We have such wide open views and I love to think that 200 years ago someone was probably here, standing outside Hill Farm doing exactly the same thing. As dawn came the moon moved higher into the sky, it's late arrival meant that I could see so many stars beyond the constellations that I could identify: the Plough shone right above the house with Orion stretching down across the garden. A magical, private start to my day.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Pond update

Well the pond (aka a large hole in the ground) filled a bit, emptied again and now seems to be filling up once more (this is in addition to the original filling and dramatic emptying earlier in the year). The ground is very wet after spells of heavy rain last week and plenty of water is running into the pond from our springs and field drains but the grass that has grown over the summer gives it the appearance of a (very small) paddy field! We will wait to see what happens next ...

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

My Fairy

This year I used some of my birthday money to treat myself to a fairy for the top of our Christmas Tree. Ages ago I saw Halinka exhibit at the Country Living craft show in Harrogate and loved her work but it sells out fast, so this year I made a note in my diary and now I can't wait to see my Frosted Holly fairy take her place atop the tree.

After the gale

I wrote in a previous post about the very strong wind that tore through the garden a few days ago, well today it was dry enough for me to assess the damage and begin the clear up. Both my sweet pea tripods had snapped off their bases and sadly one of my rosemary bushes had cleaved in two. I'd previously collected all the toppled garden furniture and the pots which were blown across the field. The leaves were torn off the trees and they lie in piles at the base of all my plants. If I can find some time I'll bag them up for leaf mold. Dave meanwhile was investigating the disappearing pond which had partially filled but then spontaneously emptied again.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Light on the hills

Today we drove towards Ashbourne and the light on the hills of the Peak District against the much darker sky was amazing. We pulled into Fairways Garden Centre and I was able to take this photo.

Christmas preparations

I am the proud owner of two copies of Delia Smith's Christmas, one is mine and one I inherited from my mother. I have to smile though as her copy is neatly annotated with details about what she cooked each year, written carefully onto Christmas Cards, mine however is more of a filing cabinet filled with notes written on whatever was to hand, old bits of paper, envelopes etc. Both make for a lovely collection of memories. In mine I have a  note written by Tom when he made a Christingle for their school service, there is also a Christmas Menu from the hotel where Joe worked from age 16.

Monday, 21 November 2016


This lovely Christmas Card was made by Mark Hearld and is one of a number that I've bought to display rather than send. He also designed the Harvest Hare fabric which I've used to make my cushions. His work seems very reflective of the rural life that we are lucky enough to experience around us on the farm

They've arrived

Today it is pouring with cold rain and we have strong winds. I was nice and warm in the kitchen cooking when I realized that the fieldfares had decided this was the perfect moment to descend on my berries. Knowing how fast they can feed I put on my waterproofs and battled the weather to collect a number of branches for my festive decorating, now safely in the outside dairy in buckets of water. The birds are welcome to share the feast (you'll notice a pigeon also got in on the act) but the first year we were here I was left surrounded by holly without a single berry come Christmas, so this year I'm taking action first!

Stir Up Sunday

Today I began making my Christmas Puddings. This year I am producing five of them which meant there was plenty of mixture ready for our 'lucky stirs'. They are now simmering away on the stove while the weather outside does its worst.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Feeding the cake

My Christmas cake is made and just needs the addition of a little brandy before it's wrapped up and stored in the pantry, ready for icing much nearer to the big day.

Saturday, 19 November 2016


For me limoncello is a special reminder of some wonderful trips to Italy in the past, when we thought we might live out there. When making it the hardest part is paring off the peel very carefully to make sure no bitter white pith gets steeped in the vodka. Now it just needs a daily shake for a week or two, then I'll add a little sugar syrup, strain carefully and it will provide the perfect after dinner Christmas treat. I particularly love that I managed to get lemons wrapped in tissue paper, as a child I collected these and now so rarely see them.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

What's coming

Today we had about 10 minutes of terrific wind which tore through the garden upending furniture and blowing our pots across the field. We later found out that there had been tornado locally which ripped out windows at the JCB factory just up the road in Rocester. Although scary, all things considered we must have had a lucky escape. Later as I soaked in the bath I saw another strange cloud formation and wondered if there were more storms to come.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A spellbinding sight

Copyright Garry Lomas
Last night I couldn't sleep and got up at 4am. The 'supermoon' was still shining brightly despite a thin layer of cloud and looking out of the big bathroom window I could see a dark shape silhouetted against the lighter lawn. At first I thought it was puss but as soon as it moved I realised it was the hare. After a while it ran across the sodden grass triggering the outside light. It spent quite a while in the lane, just a dark shadow moving silently while most of Somersal slept. Last Christmas I bought a copy of a Garry Lomas print of a hare and I felt that if only I could have photographed ours this is what he would have looked like.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Supermoon at Somersal

Dave captured these photos of the 'supermoon' shining brightly above Hill Farm in Somersal Herbert this evening. The drifting clouds made it appear even more atmospheric. Amazingly while we watched the barn owl made a single pass over the field opposite.


It's been a funny year for the garden, generally everything got going very late, my poor dahlias were at their best when the frost cut them down and the squash which I'd hoped would make it for harvest, are only just forming and as the plants have collapsed I've had to pull them up.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Boss cat

After ignoring us all summer Boss Cat has re-appeared, presumably the cold weather has created a vole shortage. Today she managed to keep an eye on both my gardening and Dave's work reducing the wood pile in the barn. We laughed to see her run down the hill with a grass Fu Manchu beard (presumably the result of her pouncing into the field looking for small furry things.)

Late autumn colour

The frosts have brought out amazing colours on the trees. Today the early light made the trees glow and once again I was outside taking photos before breakfast!

Saturday, 12 November 2016


On the actual night of the super moon it was cloudy here but late on Saturday evening I looked out at bedtime and found that I could see the sheep grazing in the field opposite us. It was very cold though and the lens of the camera insisted on misting over.

Friday, 11 November 2016


My parents got engaged on the 11/11 during the war and today, as I planted out a host of bulbs, my thoughts were with them. The tulips should be in flower for the date of their wedding anniversary on the 22nd April. I would have loved to have been able to share living at Hill Farm with them.

A frozen bath

This poor robin was most unimpressed to find that his morning bath had frozen over. Instead he had to perch on the seat outside our kitchen window and dash down to help himself to food put out for puss (she may turn up her nose at cat food but the robin clearly finds it delicious).

Thursday, 10 November 2016


It is still hard to get used to how fast the evenings are drawing in. Today we've had sunshine and now a glorious sunset to watch while I start to prepare our supper.

Working on the woodpile

Dave has made himself a saw horse and is busy working his way through our piles of timber to create kindling for our winter fires.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Christmas cooking

Today was a very grey, foggy and damp day so I decided I would get ahead with my Christmas cooking and start on my mincemeat. It is so easy to do and I find it very therapeutic.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Frosty days

This week we've had several frosts and lovely pink dawns. Today I was out and about taking photographs just after 7! Joe had ice to scrape from his car windscreen.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Autumn colours

I walked round the village earlier today dropping off tickets to friends for a Christmas Decoration event that we plan on attending at the end of the week. The sky was blue and the leaves brilliant. Autumn at it's absolute best.

Last roses

I picked these to put in our guest bedroom at the weekend but now they are on my bedside table. The deeper pink are Queen Elizabeth buds and the lovely soft pink is a Lichfield Angel bloom which has quickly opened out in the warmth of the house.