All posts by Anne Wheaton

About Anne Wheaton

Anne Wheaton writes about living on an English farm in her blog Life in Mud Spattered Boots.

walking the North Downs Way

With the weather set fair and farm work up to date, we took off for a couple of days walking last week. Bill packed his gloves for cool morning starts and we both packed a waterproof coat and a fleece. What we should have packed were hats and sunscreen as we had two wonderfully warm sunny days and came home with glowingly pink faces and necks.

The Devil's Kneading Trough
The Devil’s Kneading Trough

Having spent the previous day in London, pounding the pavements on a shopping expedition (one of my least favoured ways to spend a day) it was a joy to jump off the train at Charing in Kent and stride out on The North Downs Way where sheep outnumber people and for much of the day the only noise is birdsong. The North Downs are a chalk upland area (the name Downs comes from the Old English word dun, meaning hill) and we passed through many ‘combes’ or dry valleys that were formed in the Ice Age. These deep valleys are spectacular viewed from above but rather daunting as you stand at the bottom and look up. Truth be told, I’m an Essex girl where hills are just slight inclines, so I’m not thrilled when faced with a steep hill but luckily the view at the top is usually worth the climb.

from Wye Crown on North Downs Way

As well as the combes, we walked through bluebell carpeted woods and paths lined with lime green coloured alexanders and breathed in the heavenly scent of gorse flowers and the heady aroma of wild garlic. At the end of the first day, smoke from wood fires wafted across the fields as we dropped down from the ridge into a village nestled into the valley. Rather charmingly, the path led straight to the pub where we were staying and the wood fire was burning in the fireplace in our bedroom. Luxuriating in a bath with the fire flickering in the background was certainly a relaxing way to finish the walk.

ahead for Dover along the cliff top

Next day, fortified by a cooked breakfast served in a frying pan (probably very trendy but I’d rather have a plate) we set off for Dover.  The last few miles were along the cliff top through blossom lined tunnels cut into the bushes and vertiginous views down the cliffs. Bill kept peering down, but I stayed resolutely to the far side of the path.  It made a mockery of the protective railings we’ve had to erect around The Barley Barn.

 Dover castle
Dover castle

Eventually Dover hove into view with its castle sitting proud in the sunlight and ships setting out across the English channel with the iconic white cliffs stretching out behind. The North Downs Way takes a scenic route around Dover, including more bloody steps and hills, finally reaching the sea and a granite start/finish line set into the ground. As ever, a bit of an anti-climax when we reach the end of a trail, though this time  there’s a loop to extend the walk to Canterbury, so it’s not quite the end for us.

Bill is already thinking about our next long distance walk. Any suggestions?

Walking Notes for anyone who may be planning to walk the North Downs Way

in my kitchen – April 2014

I’m not a fan of the Make-Up Free Selfies that are doing the rounds on Facebook (and this article pretty well sums up my opinion ) but never one to miss a chance to jump on the bandwagon just as it disappears from sight, here’s my real kitchen. No carefully arranged photos with tastefully chosen accessories. No tweaking or editing. Just shots taken this morning in my kitchen.

 
The good

spring salad with flowers
Leaves picked from the garden, dumped on the doorstep while I went off to do something else. A selection of over-wintered lambs lettuce, parsley, chard, cutting celery and rocket flowers with spring flowers and chives. Remembered, retrieved and brought into the kitchen for lunch.

duck eggs
Duck eggs. Each morning I race the crows to pick up the eggs that the ducks lay in the middle of the run, instead of under their shelter. The barn roof is littered with broken duck eggs, so obviously I’m often too late and the crows have swooped down and carried them away. Incidentally, they do the same to tiny chicks and ducklings. It’s a hard life sometimes.

Some days the eggs are dated and put straight into boxes, some days they get left lying on the table held in place by a trivet until I need to get something out of the oven. I am not a naturally tidy person but I hate living in a mess, so force myself to put things away. Were I to fill in a form where I rate my tidiness on a scale of 1 to 10, I would be in the middle. Neither tidy nor untidy. Now I wish I’d cleaned the food colouring stain from the table before I took the photo. Or moved the eggs.

The bad 

sourdough bread
Sourdough bread. I was talking as I poured in the water and my concentration lapsed. The dough was too wet and as I’d just emptied the sack of flour, it stayed wet. When I turned the dough onto the bread paddle, I managed to drop it off centre so that I had to scoop the edges back onto the paddle. The result is a rather flat, wide loaf with a peculiar top. It looks pale because I slightly undercook loaves if I’m going to freeze them and then give them a good blast in the oven for 15 minutes before eating.

 
And the ugly

cyclamen and lemon
The dead and decaying. I must remember:
Plants need water
Lemons with the zest removed need using straight away

 

What’s happening in your kitchen this month?
In My Kitchen is hosted by the inimitable Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial (whose kitchen does not feature dead and decaying plants).  If you pop over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial you can follow the links to bloggers’ kitchens around the world and add your IMK post too.

 

a stitched journal of the farm in March

It is a universally acknowledged fact that farms are held together by baler twine and ours is no exception. Even though we haven’t baled hay or straw for years, there’s always a big roll of twine sitting in the workshop and several lengths hanging up that have been cut from bales.

Ask a farmer to empty their pockets and  you’re bound to find a length of baler twine in there, whether a length of ancient sisal twine or modern polypropylene twine, ready to use. A length of baler twine acts as emergency belt, dog lead or headcollar for a pony. It doubles as a latch or a hinge. A quick walk from the back door to the barn revealed baler twine mending holes in nets, holding things together, holding things down and holding things up.

It seemed only appropriate therefore, that somewhere in my Stitched Journal of the Farm,  I find a space to represent baler twine. So, for March, I decided to sew some cords using scraps of fabric that are too small to use for anything much. I’ve seen photos of fabric cords, but when I followed the instructions, the thread kept breaking as I sewed, the fabric frayed and I was left with a spindly cord with a lot of hanging threads.

cords

After a little experiment, I realised that by folding in the edges of the fabric strip the whole thing looked much neater.

Take a strip of fabric, 2.5cm wide, fold it in half lengthways and press along the crease. Fold the edges into the middle and press again (steps 1 and 2). You could use a bias binder maker if you have such a thing up to this point. Finally, fold the strip in half again and press (step 3).

Set the sewing machine on a zig zag stitch and feed the strip into the sewing machine, twisting it tightly as you sew. You now have your cord made from a fabric scrap.

plaited cords

The blindingly obvious question, is of course “What on earth are you going to do with them Anne?” to which I have no real answer.

The strips could be plaited to make a hat band, strap or belt. They could be laid on fabric and stitched down to make a raised pattern. I could use them to bind together my Stitched Journal Project, should I ever join everything together. Most likely though I shall use them when I decide, on a whim, to make something and halfway through realise that I need piping cord, of which I have none. These will do the job perfectly well and it would be a rather satisfying use for odd bits of leftover fabric.

Any other suggestions?

Linking with Lola Nova for The Stitched Journal Project. There’s all sorts of people making all sorts of things. Check out this link to see what everybody has been making this month. You might be surprised.