Wednesday 22 August 2012

Avian Voices From My Smallholding Chimney.

That's a picture of my front room/lounge (computer room/study) taken this morning.  I built the fireplace myself when we built our dwelling in 2003.  The stones once belonged to an old stable that used to be on the site.  So I decided to recycle the stone and make myself a rustic fire place like you do.  The stone lintel came from one of our fields that I found lying on top of a crumbling wall.  The fireplace cost me nothing except for a bag of cement and some sand that I had left over.

The copper ornaments and horse brasses all came from countless car boot sales in England.  They could do with a polish couldn't they?  I only clean my copper and brass once a year.  I don't mind it looking tarnished and the ageing gives it character.  A very kind couple we know gave us the Stanley stove for nothing.  It was really kind of them.  The flowers in the picture are 'real' plastic.  They never fade like the real one's.

Any road.  We only seem to light the stove above when it's Winter or Christmas.  So it doesn't get used very much.  That's probably why we have got feathered friends chirping down the chimney at the moment.  So we won't be lighting the stove for a while. Anybody know how long I should wait until I can clean the chimney and remove the nest?  I believe that nests are great for carbon dioxide (is it monoxide?) poisoning.  There's always some creature taking up residence in one of the buildings.

Hopefully in my next post I will be showing you a picture of our new field mouse eradicator.  You see we are getting another cat because the field mice often decide to take up residence in the old farmhouse. This is not cricket when this happens and so beginneth a new chapter with another smallholding employee and feline friend.  A saucer of milk and a bit of cat food won't break the bank will it?

See you soon.


  1. That looks superb, echoes of Lake District buildings, traditionally done in slate with no mortar, the stones locking together, all sloping slightly outwards to throw rain-water (which is abundant) back outside.
    A real skill in building, and sadly one, like dry-stone walling, dying out.
    Sure you've got the real rustic look, that stove really goes there. Bet it throws some heat out going at full blast.

    Reminds me of the pot-bellied cast iron stove in my junior school main hall, it sat in the middle with an iron stack disappearing through the roof about 20' up, surrounded by a little iron railing to stop kids from touching it.
    The school's still there, a lovely old stone building, but it's a privatly-owned play-school now, the village grew so much they built a new one about 40 years ago, and it's been extended several times.

    And the bright-ware is no worse for a bit of dullness, it could be a full-time job keeping it all sparkling. a lot of the traditional village pubs had displays of old horse brasses, it must have taken somebody a long time to shine them all up. Most of them have gone now, as well as the original old timber beams they were often displayed on; they then replace them with imitation timber beams and plastic horse brasses for the "authentic" look. Beats cock-fighting as we say.

    Guess to get rid of the chirping visitors home when they fly away, can't be long now.

    Sitting out tonight (pint and cigar) it's about dusk, saw a single mallard flying over fast, and 2 bats, first I've seen here, I like to see them.

    Looking forward to seeing new mouse-catcher, raggy cat's been fetching a few, miaws at the door, shows me its latest catch, then eats it. Been out most of the day, come back in an hour ago, it's disappeared, found a nice warm hidey-hole somewhere, it's getting thrown out later though.

  2. Glad you like the stone fire place Cumbrian. Funnily enoughI was reading about stone walls the other day - Mr Seymour yet again. A lot of the dry stone walls go back to the Thirteenth Century (No doubt the Normans) along with the Domesday book, which listed how much everybody owned and where they kept it. However most of the dry stone walls were built during the Enclosures. Also when you see these massive great wall of China like stone walls constructions, snaking over the fells and hills. The drystone wall workers brought the stone down not up on horse drawn sledges from near from quarry like scratchings. A lot of the walls were also gathered from glacial deposits in the fields and when they ploughed. I think they are wonderful. Are there any apprenticeships for dry-stone walling in Cumbria these days?

    The stove is very warm and looks brilliant with its door open. We also have the multi-fuel (coal, wood, paper, peat) Stanley range in the kitchen/dining room. This runs 3 radiators, we cook on it and also get our hot water.

    I am sad to hear that the traditional pub decor is disappearing Cumbrian. I sampled the Scottish heavy bitter last night. It reminds me very much of Youngers. Another good discussion would be pub menus. Wouldn't it be great to be able to go in a real ale pub with traditional decor, that served organic traditional food with an emphasis on regional English dishes? Perhaps we have all have international appetites these days? I have to eat something spicy at least once a week. I think it would be great to champion and celebrate traditional meals though and not have to pay the earth because they are organic.

    Yes we willleave the chirpers for a few weeks. You're right they can't be long now.

    We get bats and amazing sunsets. Some times think I am looking at Heaven with the cloud like islands in the sun. Wasn't that a Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers song?

    I am reliably informed that 'plastic' flowers next to the fireplace are in fact silk. Shows how much notice I take.

    Domino (Dominus)is supposed to arrive today. Managed to source another John Seymour: Blueprint for a Green Planet. So that's on it's way from Blighty.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  3. Dry-stone walling, a Lake District skill, see some of the walls, snaking up the steep fell-sides, miles of them, I take my hat off to the men who built them, and still standing after centuries.
    There's still a few who can build them, but, like a lot of other country skills, not many left. The main demand is for repairs to fallen-down sections, or knocked down by vehicles on the narrow roads.
    Dunno about apprenticeships, suppose there must be young men (and women too) who are keen to learn such a skill, maybe they just assist an established waller and pick the skill up after a few years. Don't suppose there's much money in it though, and that's what young people seem to want now; pride in the job appears to be an antiquated concept.

    Our biggest offering is Hadrians Wall, some of it still standing in parts, it must have taken a long time to build without the transport and lifting gear we have now.

    Traditional pub decor has died with traditional pubs, any that's left are usually eating houses, basicly restaurants with a bar, and only survive on the strength of their good value food reputation. Lots of villages don't have a pub any more, I mourn their passing, they were great places with low ceilings, hand-pulled pints, open fires and smokey atmosphere.
    They seem to have killed our pubs with extortionate tax and anti-smoking rules, what annoys me is the anti-smokers responsible for the ban don't usually frequent pubs.

    They didn't usually serve food, unless you liked crisps, nuts, or pickled eggs. Darts nights, the home pub laid on a spread for the teams, usually sandwiches and picles, but occasionally pie and peas, and one pub was known for its baked potato darts suppers.
    Near the harbour, the pubs catered to the fishermen, who worked the tides, and opening hours could be a bit flexible, (this was in the days of licencing hours), according to the tides. Food in these pubs often consisted of crabs, whelks and scallops, donated by the fishing lads and boiled by the landlord / lady. All forgotten now, the pubs have long gone, and there's no fish left.

    Traditional meals might be Cumberland sausage, black pudding (but even this is no longer made locally by butchers), tayty-pot made with breast of mutton and served with pickled red cabbage, pie and peas, fish and chips, gammon and egg, lentil soup.
    All made with local produce (except the lentils)

    Got to admit I like the spicey stuff as well, can't beat a good Indian curry, I used to like Vindaloo strength, but my taste sems to have modersted down to Madras or Rogan Josh, served with pilau rice and naan bread. All good calorie-laden colestoral-enhanced stuff.

    My keg of ale ran out tonight, last pint and King Edward in the gloaming, saw only 1 bat tonight. So looks like brew time again, should have done it last week, but thought I had plenty left. Oh well, it's wine for a bit until the next batch is ready.

    Raggy cat off out, sits with me on the patio, then wanders off sedately into the back garden (wilderness) and disappears.

  4. Thanks Cumbrian. You should write a book about the passing of rural and village life in Cumbria.

    Another sad passing is the demise of the village cobblers, pie shop, Blacksmith, corner shop and the saddle and harness makers. I remember all of these visiting Ireland on my holidays and growing up in England. I suppose its so called progress?

    Another good book for you to read Cumbrian: The Longest Crawl: Ian Marchant. The author and his pal go on a months pub crawl around Britain. They sample the Wayfarer's Dole and go in lots of different ale houses and discuss so many things that we talk about.

    Getting another bitter brew on the go today. Thanks again for the advice and encouragement Cumbrian.

    New cat/kitten duly arrived yesterday. Will post a picture of it later.

  5. You got me thinking about what was in my village when I grew up, and what we have now.
    6 sweet shops, usually just in the front room of a house
    3 butchers, pork, lamb and beef, all butched their own
    4 pubs and a British Legion
    1 miners welfare
    2 petrol stations
    1 cobbler
    2 co-ops, C.W.S. and Bee-hive
    2 general stores
    1 chip shop in a wooden shed on a back lane
    1 Post Office
    1 wool shop
    4 market gardeners
    7 farms
    1 florist grew his own
    1 potato merchant
    1 coal man
    1 library
    2 police houses, one of them the dog handler
    1 newsagent
    2 milkmen
    1 joiner & undertaker

    0 sweet shops
    0 butchers
    2 pubs, a British Legion and a Rugby club
    1 bowls club (ex miners welfare)
    1 petrol station (and Spar)
    0 cobbler
    2 general srores (1 paki shop and the other has the P.O.)
    1 Chinese take-away
    1 market gardener
    2 farms
    0 florist
    0 coal man
    0 potato merchant
    1 library
    0 police houses
    0 newsagent
    0 milkmen
    1 pharmacy
    1 hairdesser
    1 joiner & undertaker

    Dunno if we're better off or worse.

    Pouring down stair rods this morning, bit cooler as well.
    Raggy cat in early and damp, sleeping now.
    Looking forward to seeing new mouse control officer.

  6. You make me laugh Cumbrian. I don't know either if you're better off or worse. Think I would prefer an old fashioned 'proper' English chippy to the Chinese one. Reckon you could still make a few bob making and repairing bespoke shoes and boots.

    Here in Ireland my grandmother used to be the town land midwife and she would lay out the dead. This was all done for free of course.

    Did any of the pubs make their own ale?

    It's rained all night here but it's starting to brighten up. Will post picture of new mouse(hopefully rats also) control officer soon.


  7. No, none of them brewed, there were 2 main pub breweries, John Peel of Workinton (long gone) and Jennings of Cockermouth (still going), and very litle else to choose from.

    Yes, the old-fashioned chippy was preferable to the Chinky, the Chinese might be very good at curry, chop suey, chow mein, etc, but they're not usually much good at traditional fish & chips.

    Then I got thinking about all the tradesmen who did the rounds.
    1 Milkman
    2 Coalman
    3 Butchers, each had a van
    4 Fishmonger
    5 Ice cream van
    6 Laundry van
    7 Travelling shops
    8 Guy who sold firewood
    9 Market gardener
    10 Rag & bone man, there was one guy still came round with a pony and flat-bed trap, think it was up to about early 60s
    11 There was a chip van came briefly, operated by a Chinaman, but it blew up and burned out. His till was a plastic washing-up bowl,the kids were picking hot coins up quite a bit away, funny to see them (kids)trying to keep hold of them (coins).
    12 Lemonade wagon, the local manufacturer (Brothwell & Mills, gone many years ago) had a round, 3d back on the bottles, quite a good earner for us, only 3 empty bottles = 1 full one.

    All we get now is the very occasional ice cream van. And vans with people dropping plastic bags off asking us to fill them with old / unwanted clothes for various charities, then coming back to collect any full ones. And lots of enthusiastic if misguided young people trying to sell us new double glazing, conservatory, solar roof panels, window blinds, electric garage doors, etc, or trying to persuade us to switch energy supplier or have sky TV installed.

    Still pouring down, hasn't stopped all day.
    Raggy cat went out again, didn't stay out long, back in now looking a bit damp.

  8. Thanks Cumbrian for that.

    The big supermarkets and maufacturers seem to have made it impossible for the small one man business to survive. No longer do we have local trades or shops offering 'tick', community spirit or even loyalty. Everything seems to be based on price. Perhaps that's why so many of us shop at the cheaper discount supermarkets?

    I know somebody when canvassed on the phone for double glazing..., she would say:

    "I only rent my house and I have no money."

    They never rang again.



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