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Corn Dollies

Corn Dollies

You don’t often see them now, but the culmination of harvest this week and an article in NFU Countryside magazine on how to make them set me to reminiscing about the art of corn dolly creation.

In my early rural-school years we had a teacher who wove corn dollies as she taught. She sat in a battered armchair in the corner of the classroom and her hands rarely stilled as she counselled us in the ways of nature, with an old-country wisdom which resonates with me to this day.

I recall that the different dollies had meanings and potencies and that the spirit of the corn was encased in their form. Mrs Homewood crafted works of some intricacy whilst the class had a go at the simple, spiral ‘drop dollies’ (with mixed results!)

Some are traditional to an area, named after counties and places.

EssexTerret
This is an Essex Terret…
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… and this one’s a Cambridgeshire Handbell.

Plump, comfortably dressed and slightly dishevelled, Mrs Homewood made a greater impression on me than even gorgeous, blonde, Miss Ford from my city-infant class who let me brush her long hair and handed out sweets from the drawer of her desk. I thought Mrs Homewood was ancient, but she lived on for decades after I left so that must have been an illusion of youth. I wonder if she was actually a pagan goddess of nature, even the name fits!

Our classes were often conducted outside (whatever the weather) and we walked the length of the village river to study the life and nature of its twisting path. I certainly knew what a tributary was long before I could spell it. Our very own forest school (before forest schools re-emerged as a trendy ‘new’ idea) but do not be misled into thinking that Mrs Homewood was saintly. Oh no. She chased one of the boys with a bunch of stinging nettles (he was chasing us girls with the same) and when a classmate told her he’d been stung by a bee she offered no sympathy.

‘Poor bee. You do know that he’ll die now?’

The varieties of wheat we grow today have stalks too short for successful dolly making. It’s been cultured that way to prevent the crop falling and to accommodate combine harvesters. But maybe I should give it a try anyway…

The dolly should be kept over winter and laid in the first turned furrow of the plough to set the spirit of the corn free again. Bless Mrs Homewood, whose spirit is free now too, bless all the teachers who shaped us and the spirit of the corn which makes our bread.

 

Barny Update

Barny Update

I realise it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted progress on our barn conversion and I’m not sure why, given that it’s steaming ahead and I’m rarely thinking about/talking about/looking at anything else!

I was hoping to do a ‘poll’ on here to ask readers opinions on a few of the crucial design decisions I’ve been grappling with, but the technicality of WordPress plug-ins beat me so I made the decisions myself (which is probably what I would have done anyway.)

So… we’ve opted for black for the interiors of the window frames (which still feels nerve-wrackingly brave!) Windows ordered, so no going back now.

black windows

… and black metal stairs (if I can source some we can afford).

steel stairs

After veering away from a tin roof in fear of noise and heat a last-minute U-turn returned us to traditional corrugated steel (also ordered).

corrugated tin roof

And those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that we’ve chosen gorgeous Western Red Cedar for our exterior cladding.

Wester red cedar

(Only ours will be horizontal feather-edge. God, doesn’t cedar smell gorgeous!)

Our house won’t be as trendy as those in the pictures, we don’t have the flair or the budget, but I’m still collecting ideas-above-my-station and pictures of stuff I can’t afford over on Pinterest.

I’m trying to design the kitchen now, ahead of electrical wires and plumbing pipes being laid through floors and walls, and I thought I’d settled my bathroom but I’m in a dilemma over whether to place a freestanding bath in front of the window or offset to the side (first world problems, I know):

(Yes, the glass will be clear but there are only fields out there. I might provide a blind for the coy). Your opinions are welcome (but please know that I’ll probably ignore them).

Back in the real world, the builders are hard at it creating partition walls, inserting noggins for plasterboard and crafting beautiful lead-work…

They’re about to start wrapping the whole package in a breathable membrane and scaffold for the roof work arrives in a fortnight.

Our little Chaff House is forming (and hasn’t the dog got big!)

 

 

Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT A Bed Of Brambles by @SamRussellBooks #Romance #TuesdayBookBlog

A lovely review from Rosie’s Book Review Team

Rosie Amber

Today’s second team review is from Jenny R.

#RBRT Review Team

Jenny has been reading A Bed Of Brambles by Sam Russell

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Chic Lit, Romance

4 Stars

Sam Russell definitely writes about what she knows best. You can tell that she has a passion for horses and that she has looked after them herself.  She writes this book with a passion and thoughtfulness that shines throughout the story.

The relationship between Hettie and Alex has a love hate feel about it, but you know that deep down they are simply made to be together, but getting there is a struggle, and this struggle makes for a very good read. Although they both often misread one another, they also know each other very well.  They have a complex relationship at times and I felt myself wanting to bang their stubborn heads together.

There is a mix of feelings within the story that keeps…

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Rustic Guest Alison Howell – Walking the Cotswolds

Rustic Guest Alison Howell – Walking the Cotswolds

AlisonHowell

Alison is the founder of Foot Trails, a specialist travel company crafting custom independent walking tours in the South West of England.

It’s a beautiful, inspiring part of the country (and the setting for my Draymere Hall romances, of course!)

I’ve been lucky enough to visit many times but Alison could tempt me back with her wonderful walking tours.

Let’s have that cuppa first, and let Alison tell us about her world.


Walking the Cotswolds

At this time of year the fields of barley (with its long wispy delicate whiskers) and wheat are starting to turn and ripen. Barley changes beautifully from its vibrant green to a light beige. And wheat, standing tall and proudly as it does in the fields to a golden hue.

The sight of both crops growing whisks me instantly back to my childhood on the farm. I remember (with fondness and probably rose tinted spectacles) the seemingly endless flurry of activity from early in the morning until late into the night. Tractor drivers, trailers and my father, driving the machines and combine harvester to race against the unpredictable British weather. This will soon be underway.

We would pack frozen ice lolly’s in newspaper and rush them to the fields to keep my father cool in the heat of the dry dusty work that is harvest.

Back on today’s trail I am lulled soothingly by the sway and movement of the crops.

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We are in the Cotswolds. We, my husband and our Guide and Trail Creator, David, our children (who often accompany us on trail checks and have learnt much over the years, Molly, Foot Trails mascot and our Cavalier King Charles.)

There have been recent reports of logging on one of our trails and we are here to assess the situation and see if we need to re-route the trail.

 

Long views of green, mellow fields and impossibly inviting villages stretch out in front of us.

Out here the crowds, throngs and coaches of visitors seem miles away.

Village life is blissfully slower paced and simple. We walk, we talk we pause at the village shop café for Americano coffees, ice cream and a cream tea. We study the map and ponder the route directions on the trail card.

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By the side of the fields wild Poppies are thrown around by the breeze. Their heads of delicate and strongly hued petals dancing.

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We partake enthusiastically in the obligatory choosing and discussion of which would be the cottage we would most love to live in. There are several contenders. We admire their stone porches, elaborate chimney pots and quiet locations.

The Cotswolds are such a distinct area to walk in. Clues of its geography are everywhere. In the stone walls, skilfully put together by hand without cement, they mark boundaries and keep in sheep and live stock. And by the buildings, churches, built in the trade mark local stone.

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We reach the point of the logging and instantly see what needs to be done. A few tweaks and changes are spoken into our Dictaphone and the new directions are recorded. Soon to be written into trail cards and feature in trips for guests from around the world to enjoy.

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I reflect on my life as the sun beams enthusiastically through a gap in the trees in front of me. For 15 years Foot Trails has been the product of my life work. What began as a dream, a vision to inspire people to walk rural England in a way that was authentic and meaningful has grown and developed in ways I could not then imagine.

But one thing has remained. The simple act of walking and the pleasure it brings. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, repeatedly and letting our feet take us on a journey. Sometimes to places known sometimes to places new. It matters not. The world our feet let us see always holds something fresh and new if we look closely enough. A view, a season, a feel, weather….

Years ago we chose the phrase walking England’s rural canvas to sum up what it is we do at Foot Trails. It seems more apt than ever.

I am still inspired by walking. In many ways more than I ever was. I hope through our efforts, passions and goals you too will discover not only beautiful places like here in the Cotswolds, but gain a perspective of life that sustains and inspires you.


This post was originally shared on Alison’s Foot Trails blog where you can also read more of Alison’s Story (and book a wonderful holiday off the beaten track!)

@howell_alison

@FootTrailsUK

Facebook.com/FootTrails

 

 

Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

Plain Barny – Project (mis)management

I’ll admit I’ve snorted at the fees demanded by architects to project manage a build.

I’m not snorting now.

I’ve just spent 30 minutes providing a detailed explanation of our roof cladding requirements to a bloke who, it turns out, I’d asked to quote for our stairs. He must think I’m barking. He asked for a picture of where it was going.

Bemused, I sent him a photo. DSC_1196

He tried to explain the coarse, sharp-edged character of galvanised steel… did I not want a powder coating?

I robustly rejected that option.

When I finally twigged and confessed with horror that while he’d been talking stairs I’d been talking roofs, he admitted to wondering why I’d been going on about an overhang and a 30° pitch.

I nearly ordered a corrugated steel staircase.

And then there’s the ongoing saga of those bloody windows. Supplier selected, deposit paid, FULL AND FINAL DETAILS to be submitted by the end of the month to secure our October production date(!!) for these beauties from Velfac:

velfac
That isn’t our barn by the way

Decisions and questions and details which are sorely exposing my limited knowledge. Stir in half a pound of building regs and a cupful of *SAP requirements and combine to create the perfect soup of confusion.

*The Standard Assessment Procedure for the Energy Rating of Dwellings (SAP) was developed by BRE based on the BRE Domestic Energy Model (BREDEM) and was published by BRE and the Department of the Environment in 1992. In 1994 it was first cited in Part L of the building regulations and it has now been adopted by the UK Government as the methodology for calculating the energy performance of dwellings.

The most recent version, SAP 2012, came into force for building regulations compliance on 6 April 2014. The 2009 version SAP 2009 may still be used on projects for which transitional arrangements apply, see 2013 changes to the approved documents for part L of the building regulations for more information.

You stopped reading that definition after five words, didn’t you? So did I.

I asked the window suppliers to make sure I’d met the building reg requirements for fire escapes. Their emailed reply was somewhat cryptic:

  • Study 1  can be used as means of fire escape

  • Study 2 cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation cannot be used as means of fire escape

  • Bedroom 2 west elevation can be used as a means of fire escape

Given that Study 1 and study 2 have exactly the same windows… and that bullet points 3 and 4 are actually the same window, and bedroom 2 faces south-east… um, does anyone think that makes sense?

Here’s a flowchart to illustrate my current confusion:

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My project management has become as disordered as my thoughts.

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So, here I am, looking for answers.

 

How much did that architect want? Trust me, it’s a steal.

Kindle Free Promotion

Kindle Free Promotion

A Bed of Brambles – Download for free right now!

Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt.
Physical attraction draws them together but hearts and minds can be thorny. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story.
Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again.

Unless fate takes the future out of your hands…

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

Trusses and purlins and joists… Ooh, look at that view!

We’ve got them all in the barn, but I struggle to pinpoint exactly which one is which.  The line “Run that by me again…” has become a response that I use to delay while I try to work out which bit of the jigsaw the builders are talking about.

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I do know that the wood is beautiful. I just love the symmetry of it, the airiness and the different views through the lines of the structure. Craft with purpose. It was sad when the plywood went up, screening the skeleton of the building from sight.

But the barn does begin to look more like a house.

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And with the arrival of those mahusive steels that I told you about…

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… the big build reached first-floor level. The builders are eyeing the roof now and the timber discussions are becoming ever more complicated. Trusses and purlins and joists, lintels and collars and plates…

It’s a relief to talk about bricks for a change.

DSC_1218

I know what they are, they’re Cambridge Whites. I knew the barn they belonged to as well. The Farmer probably had a den inside its walls, back in the eighties, before the building was demolished.

We had to move this beast to extract our bricks from their 30-year hiding place:

And their reuse has justified The Farmers belief that you should never chuck anything away (damn it).

My bricks are beautiful too, but nature wins the day and it’s the views out of our soon-to-be windows that really take my breath away.

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