Sunday 31 May 2015

Summing up Sunday 31st May 2015

The last day of May!
The end of Spring and tomorrow is therefore the beginning of summer. Seems unlikely.

Paper making with two small boys.

Seven kitten blankets made and distributed.

Six sheep are now shorn, and look strange and bald.

Two toads rescued from a bonfire/campfire/cooking fire.

Best Bananagram word: Zoroastrianism.

Outings: to Pub quiz (J), pub (J+A).

Books: Vixen (A, bad book, lovely cover), Atlas Shrugged (E, ploughing through), Ancillary Justice (J, really very good).

Guardian Quiz Score: six out of fifteen

Sunday 24 May 2015

Summing Up Sunday: Week 3

We have been reading: 'Americanah' for book group. Positive all round, particularly when listening to Whispersync for Kindle to hear the nuances of each accent. Also very interesting and exciting to hear Adichie speak in TED talks: 'We Should All Be Feminists' and 'The Danger of a Single Story'.

We have been planting: Dahlias - lots of them! Pots: lobelia, gazania, Busy Lizzies and various other bits...

We have been going: Visiting Lacey and her Kit-Kats at the RSPCA. J and A to Lyme Regis this weekend for a well deserved seaside break, whilst E has a weekend with M and Little B. Beautiful Saturday sun for planting.

We have been making: kitten blankets! And very slow progress on E's cross-stitch...

Best Bananagram words: flawed, oxymoron, zeppelin, usurper, catabolism...

Guardian Quiz: 8/15 for M, Little B and E, but only 6/15 for J and A. Competition?

Sunday 17 May 2015

Summing up Sunday 17 May

Our best Banagaram words - whacked, equestrian, hoity and warbler

Best TV - Julie et Julia was a great Meryl Streep film we borrowed from Jean. Surprisingly engaging.

Best gardening - the sunflowers have gone out! And the flower project blog started with Sue.

Best animal - Lovely lacy and her 6 kittens being fostered by Rita for the RSPCA. We got to name them after garden things - calendula, chicory, juniper, huckleberry, fennel and alder. Sadly they are off to be early weaned and find homes from Brent Knoll.

Best outing - ice cream on Clevedon seafront

Best purchases - 20 dahlias on line and some blue flower gardening clogs...

And what we've been reading - The City and the City by China Melville (7 stars out of 10), The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman ( a solid 8 stars), Americana (not finished yet....) (among others...)

Friday 15 May 2015

Shearing at Fernhill Farm

Last Saturday (by the way we have sheep, in case you hadn't noticed) I opened a Christmas present from A. It was late indeed but it needed to be as it would probably be cruel to shear sheep when it's too cold. So the present was a day at Fernhill Farm ( to learn how to hand shear. It was organised by the amazing Emma ( and taught by the amazing Andy.

Andy's story is that he toured the world shearing ten months a year for twenty years, then returned home and bought Fernhill Farm with the proceeds. There, 800 feet above sea level on the windy Mendips he and Jen and their two children (there may have been more, but we met two) have hundreds (or is it thousands?) of sheep, some pigs and some beef. We only saw the sheep.
They were Shetlands! And also some Dorset Polled Horns, and some Blue Faced Leicesters and some Texels used in the usual complex way to produce a variety of types of lambs for a variety of purposes.
One thing that Andy and Jen aim to do really well and really differently than most British farms, is produce beautiful and valuable wool. Hence the Shetlands (who have the finest wool of British sheep breeds). However their fleeces tend to be a bit sparse, so if you  cross them with Blue Face Leicester they retain the fineness and crimp of the Shetland but are bigger sheep with much thicker denser fleeces.

So, we started with a tour of the farm:

Looks chilly? Yes, I suppose so, but not too bad.

Apart from livestock they grow wood of all sorts; here is some willow for weaving:

They have their own BIG series of ponds for purifying water, into the top of which goes waste including sewage, and in the bottom of which grow English crayfish (famous for needing  pure water) and in which one can swim! (But not today, too cold)

They also make shepherds' huts from some of the wood they grow

and look inside!

All farm produced content. Not 100% sure this is a good use of wool though:

This, however, definitely is:

Produced with a peg loom, and demonstrating all the different colours of  Shetland fleece. I'm going to try that.

Then back to the lambing barn where we started

to get down to the serious business of learning how to cut sheep. Without cutting them. No blood please.

Demonstrated by Andy first on his 150kg Polled Dorset ram

Then it was our go, having first donned the specialist footwear:

These are apparently very important. I must not have been listening when we told why, so I can't tell you. Perhaps it's because one moves the sheep around with one's feet and legs, and most of the time they are sitting on one's feet, so they might get snagged on things on normal shoes???

Here's my ewe:

A Shetland or Shetland cross,so nice and small and with a fine easy-to-cut fleece. Or so I hoped.

And that's us about half way through, the camera/phone all sweaty steamy. It's a very hot job shearing, even a small cooperative ewe like this on a relatively cool day!

And finally, a fleece!

Monday 11 May 2015

The Selection

What a beautiful cover! I've always loved this cover; rather coveted it, in fact, since it came out in 2012, but have never quite gone the full mile and bought it.  So, when there was an extra push from the publishers (thank you Net Galley for providing it!) with The Heir coming out this May, I thought I'd request and read it!

Well, the cover was as beautiful as ever. That, obviously, hasn't changed in the couple of years I've been looking at it.

Did the inside live up to expectations?

In a word: no. Very disappointing: sorry Keira Cass!

This is another teen dystopian novel that everyone (including me!) seems to love at the moment. But... how was this dystopian? Yes, there is the class system where you had a number and this entitled you to certain jobs, privileges and social status. And there were some sort of third and fourth world war things involving Russia and China where they got into debt or something or other, but we don't know much about it because it's been kept from the populace at large. And no one seems bothered, even our narrator. So, that part was just plain unsatisfactory. And then these rebels that no one really seems to know much about either. What's the point in creating a world where there's no real back story? In fairness to Cass (I wonder if that's her real name? Seems unlikely, but it's a very nice pseudonym), I haven't read any of the sequels so maybe this is built upon in the later novels. But without even an inkling of interest in this one, it's irritating. And it's dystopian. Where's the dark? It might as well be kittens and fluff for any darkness. There's mention of money and lack of food, but the main problem seems to be the lack of make-up and pretty dresses.

Irritating. What else is irritating? AMERICA. Sorry, America. That's a person, not a place. For starters, her name is annoying. Sorry, I realise that that is petty, but it's also true. Her surname is singer. Guess what she does? A lot of the names are irritating: Celeste, Aspen, Maxon. (Aside: maybe these names just irritate me because the book irritates me? Perhaps not a fair comment.) America is just... well, to be fair, she's just a sixteen year old girl. But we're used to a bit more in our heroines, aren't we? She's meant to be different from the other 35 girls in The Selection because she is less shallow and more thoughtful etc etc. Er, not from where I'm standing. The whole book is just boys-boys-ooh, look beautiful dress!-boys-boys-makeup-catfights-boys-boys... Do you get my drift? So shallow and so juvenile.

Maybe it's more true to sixteen year old girls (although not me at that age!). But it doesn't make a good story. It isn't fun to read. It's boring.

Plot. Meh. Love triangle, blah, blah. Didn't really like either Maxon or Aspen. They were all right. But, for all his protesting about not knowing how to communicate with girls, Maxon wasn't nearly awkward enough considering he'd never been around anyone of the opposite sex. He called them all 'dear' etc. He knew to be sensitive. And his and America's relationship is just plain unlikely - that he'd keep her as an outsider to be impartial. How can she be? 

And the ending. CLIFFHANGER AHOY. Cliffhangers are okay; to me, they should be reserved for books where there is so much packed in the novel that you are just jumping-off-your-seat-desperate-to-know-what-happens-next-because-not-everything-can-be-squeezed-into-just-one-novel. There was so little substance to this novel, it really could've done with an ending. 

Sorry Keira Cass: I won't be getting the sequels. But, on the plus side, I still love the cover :)

Disclaimer: this book was provided for me by NetGalley in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions and my own.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Summing up Sunday: Week 1

We have been reading:

'The City and the City.' Hard work but promises intrigue from the first and begins to be readable enough to gain pace by halfway through
A: 'Americanah' for book group - just started!
E: various things - 'Butterflies in November' (review to come), 'Alphabet Weekends' (passable), 'Anne of Avonlea' (disappointing actually) and 'The Selection' (review to come - you'll see!)

We have been going:

E: to WSM and playing the 2 penny falls on the pier! ... not an experience I would like to repeat!
A&J: into Wells for a Birthday visit to 'The Good Earth' and to see a friend's new house before coming back to 2CC for the afternoon - too sunny to go the cinema as planned!

We have been gardening:
Sunflower posts! Love-in-a-mist planting out! Teasels! Weeding! Blue Lake climbing French beans! Oregon peas! Bolt Hardy beetroot! Planning for runner beans and squashes/pumpkins. Preparing soil and waiting for seedlings to grow.

We have been doing:
J: shearing sheep! 
E: playing Scrabble with J's mum.
A: work-work-working... and plenty of gardening!

Happy Sunday x

Friday 8 May 2015

The 2015 field festival

This time last year we celebrated our new field with an extended house party with a flow of wonderful guests, a naming ceremony and two vast bonfires to clear all the brambles and thinnings from J's tremendous efforts to clear the boundary for fencing. 'Maidens' piece' is now very much part of our daily lives with our routine of sheep-care, the mollytunnel shelter and the wonderful pastime of watching the weather sweep across against the colours of the sky beyond.

So, despite the difficulties of the year and not knowing how we would cope with people in the house we decided to go ahead and celebrate again.

So on the first May bank holiday weekend we had a houseful of people and a trickle of guests to remember the field.

Highlights were the big Scillies craft tent full of Dutch people making lanterns;

the mulberry tree strung with wool and cloth pom-poms made over the preceding week by all the support workers coming in to be with E; another amazing bonfire, lit by E with Hugh and J's gigantic match; the return of the field festival flags and bunting; T H and E's literary quiz which had us searching the bookshelves and corners of the garden for clues; Sam on the swing and curled up watching CBeebies on Marco's  iPad; the glorious burning of the moon ('goodbye moon'); train gaming with M and B and cake with Kate Richard Sue David Caroline and Peter. 
A wonderfully nourishing weekend for which we are extremely grateful...

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Week 1, Firebringer

(I know this isn't wordless but just an explanation: On Wednesdays all over the internet, bloggers post a photograph with no words to explain it on their blog. Hence the ‘wordless’ title. The idea is that the photo itself says so much that it doesn’t need any description.)