Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas Is Coming And Some Outdoors Adventures

Christmas is three weeks today. 

The land hereabouts is starting to take on a Christmassy feel. Romsey has its tree installed in the centre of the market square and lights are strung up between shops across the lanes, the shops all have individual mini-trees wrapped round with lights and we've finally had a couple of (small) frosts to go with the sharp drop in temperatures. The geese keep flying over in enormous honking V formations and the leaves are almost off the trees.

I love Christmas, but I don't like the long run-up to it because it gives me Christmas Fatigue which spoils the day, so I ignore it until December, when it's lovely. In our house we don't put the tree or decs up till a week before, and then we take them all down on Boxing Day (usually). I've generally had enough of tinsel and baubles by then and am eager to get back to normal and think about the fresh year waiting just ahead.

I am organised; pretty much all the shopping has been done, the food is ordered, the Turkey is booked and paid for (coming from college where they've been grass reared and looked after properly), the booze is safely stored away in boxes under the stairs (we are having fizzy mum, right?), and I've even remembered cheese and celery and some nice bread and crackers for Christmas night when we're all too stuffed to eat anything. My final success was to persuade L to come to ASDA (which I can never resist calling As-Daaaaaa) on his inset day on Monday, so all his presents for the rest of the family are done as well. Phew. 

Lists have been made. We're hosting Christmas this year, F and J are with us on and off throughout the hols (it's surprising how much extra work and planning is involved with two more in the house) and my sis and her family are coming for lunch the weekend after Crimble, so I have to be organised otherwise everything would fall apart :o) 

We're also giving a Mince Pies And Mulled Wine party two days before Christmas day. What on earth possessed me? We've only just completed the Dinner Party Marathon that was November. I made my usual school girl error and got carried away with a festive spirit of bonhomie while issuing invitations. M reassured me that as it was so close to Christmas lots of people would be away, but so far we've only had one definite no!

Where are they all going to park? 

The doggy people will hopefully be able to go to Ma's (guests coming and going leaving front gates open onto lanes where people drive far too fast doesn't bear thinking about, especially as M accidentally left Pop in the front last week with the gate open and she took herself off to visit the neighbours, 1/4 mile up the lane. She  was returned looking very sheepish and a tiny weeny bit frightened, which I hope has taught her a lesson, although I doubt it). 
There will be a legion of small people of various ages rampaging through the house, as well as a few ginormous teenagers. Thank God for the attic, safely tucked away from the rest of the house and converted this summer into the Kids Room with an enormous mattress as a sofa, various elephant-covered huge floor cushions, an obscenely wide screen TV, the X-Box and piles of books and jigsaws. I have visions of cola, crisps, sweets, DVDs, loom bands and lego cascading down the stairs, which is probably better than small tumbling children. I'm also slightly worried about the younger ones being unexpectedly inducted into the joys of Call Of Duty and Assassin's Creed (note to self, remove all war-themed games from the room) or indeed the ripe and ribald humour of Russel Howard's Good News. I think I will perhaps invest in something safe like A Dolphin's Tale. L will be thrilled. I have at least 60 mince pies to bake (I don't make life easy for myself as I make the mincemeat as well as the pastry from scratch, but it does taste lovely so it's worth it) as well as a Christmas pudding and a vat of mulled wine (cue brandy, cranberry juice, raisins and spices), not to mention the three Victoria Sponges I have promised my class for our end of term feast.

Ho Ho Ho.

As I've exhausted myself just thinking about all of that, I'll leave you with some soothing college outdoor days photos taken over the last couple of weeks. We've been coppicing hazelwoods (looked for dormice asleep in the bowls of the trees but didn't see any, although they do live in that wood), and visiting a farm who takes its wildlife responsibilities seriously. It was there this week that I saw my very first Peregrine Falcon flying over the Chalk fields. Magic :o)

Bags hung in trees to prevent passing woofs peeing on them!

Debonair Dave

Obligatory fire

Part deux

Lovely Harvey

Tiny 'shrooms

Some of the Gang

Misty woodlands

Beech leaves
 




Beech tree

Brown Trout spawning stream

Created dead hedge

Freezing ecologists taking notes in a stubble field

Field Maple holding on to its leaves

Remnants of a wild bird seed strip in the field margin

Owl box

Poplar tip

Shaggy inkcap

Chalk-spring fed pond, hence the blue colour. It was really beautiful

Field margin left for wildlife

Watercress bed

Wild bird and bee seeded strip beside some woodland
How are your Christmas preps going?

CT :o)

29 comments:

  1. What lovely photos and most extensive field trip. Great idea to hang sacks in trees. What a nice outing, even on a chilly day and the bonfire warding off the chill. Nice post. Nice Story.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed. Hope you are snow free at the mo and warm? :o)

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  2. Do the farmers get paid for the wild field margins? Great pictures.

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    1. Hi Dave. Yes they do- it's part of the Higher Level Stewardship subsidies from the CAP. It's all changing next year to Countryside Stewardship and we're wondering how that's going to effect things. The general feeling is that fewer farmers will get involved (currently it's about 73% or thereabouts), which is bad news for wildlife. Is there something similar in Ireland?

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    2. They are bringing in a Greening Calculator. Think it's only going to effect big farmers (over 30 hectares) though. It will be time for farmers to measure the width of their hedges. I think CAP is so unfair for smallholders. They have stopped paying farmers under 4 acres and there are 4000 Irish farmers who get no entitlements what so ever. We get very little but we carry on. Most schemes are not open to farmers under 5 hectares.

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    3. It certainly seems short-sighed given that small parcels of land together add up to big parcels of land in wildlife benefit terms. In the UK there is a big drive to connect up smaller bits of land by creating 'wildlife corridors,' the thinking being that joined up pieces of land are of more benefit to wild things than individual small islands. As far as wildlife related subsidies go, you are a custodian of the land too so I wonder why a blanket ban operates, instead of a sliding-scale of payments related to size? Economics, presumably.

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    4. The new CAP changes are supposed to be giving more uniform and higher payments to small farmers. We will see.

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  3. Looks like you have been as busy as bees .
    Great to see the falcon/
    Love the look of the leafless Beech trees.
    Before the cold set in here I was getting awesome pics of the shaggy ink caps in all their stages , we had an abundance of them.

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    1. Seeing that wild Peregrine hunting over the fields made my day. Hope all's well at Willow's Farm x

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  4. Mmmmm I'm feeling totally disorganised now M'dear, curse you ;-)
    I have heard of the corridor idea you mentioned in comments to Dave. I can see this working alongside railway tracks, road verges and perhaps canals but I think the hardest part is to convince people to change their gardens to be more wildlife friendly....so many people have such well manicured areas with introduced planting at great cost it seems that it will be a hard won battle to convince the majority of the need to set aside as much as possible for native planting and, to the unknowing, unkempt areas.
    Great seeing the falcon, was watching one up the lakes earlier in the year...stunning.

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    1. Hey John :o) Hearts and minds re changing gardens. I'm still convinced more people care about our wildlife than don't, I think the real problem is many folks still don't know what a state wild things are in and what to do to help.
      Yup, watching the Peregrine was amazing :o) Hope all's well with you and Bramble.

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  5. I've just come back from the mall with some pressies. My problem this year is that I have absolutely no ideas for anybody and I loath just wandering around the shops just looking. So my preparations are pretty much non-existent.

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    1. Can't stand shopping either- I get most of mine on line which makes a HUGE difference.

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  6. A lovely collection of photos :)

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  7. Your picture of the beech leaves is beautiful, I love the composition. It sounds as though you are all ready for Christmas, we still have much to do, including sorting out what we are actually doing on the day, all up in the air still with family stuff going on. Can I come to you if it all goes wrong!! xx

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    1. Of course! We always have a glass of champagne on Christmas morning while we open prezzies. I shall get out an extra glass :o) xx

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  8. Great post with some lovely photos, like the misty wood shot.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks Amanda. Hope all's well with you x

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  9. Gosh you do set yourself up for lots of extra work don't you! For the first time ever there will just be the four of us this year & to be honest I'm feeling a bit lost. I have fond memories of baking a loaf from scratch just to make bread sauce, which was then left on the dining room window & forgotten during the meal!!! Love the photos I bet your lessons are amazing & they look a great bunch of classmates too. xx

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    1. Your bread story made me smile :o) That's above and beyond the call of duty, making bread for bread sauce (bet it would have tasted lovely though).
      My classmates are a great bunch, we always have a laugh on our outings and I will miss them all hugely when we go our separate ways at the end of the course (sob) x

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  10. Christmas preparations?! I haven't even begun...oh dear... xxx

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    1. I am now worrying I've been too organised and forgotten something crucial. Ordered Pop her present today- a Kong Bouncy Ball which is supposed to be indestructible :o) She LOVES balls, spends hours picking them up, throwing them in the air then pouncing on them and repeating the whole process. It is very sweet to watch. Ted is not a ball person, he prefers sleeping :o) xx

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    2. That must be great excercise for Poppy.
      Flossy is a soft sqeaky toy girl. We have tried balls but she has no interest. There are soft toys all over the place for games and for her to snuggle up with. I will be sure to buy her a few new toys for Christmas xxx

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    3. Ah, soft toys don't last long in this house- I'm afraid they get eviscerated fairly fast :o) xx

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  11. Lovely selection of photos - love the one of the Shaggy Inkcap. Sounds like a very busy Christmas!! Just the 4 of us here this year - do so miss the big family Christmas we used to have at my parents. Like you I still do all my baking from scratch - at times I think I enjoy the preparation and anticipation more than the actual event!! Still got a few presents to get although most bought. Just the wrapping and Christmas card writing to tackle!! We only put the trees up a week to 10 days before Christmas like you but must admit do leave them up until Twelfth night.

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    1. I know what you mean about big Christmases, although this year it's just us three here and Ma and P coming, which will be nice (previous years have been hectic). I like all the prep too, as long as I have sufficient time and have made enough lists :o) Wrapping, yes, haven't done that yet or the crimble cards either x

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  12. Phew you exhausted me with all the preparations! I'm not making mince pies this year which is probably the first time since I was in my early teens. I can always make them when I feel up to it, cos who says you only have to eat them at Crimbo, anyway? ;-) Our Xmas will be a rather small and unspecial affair, but as it's only two of us, it would have been anyway. We don't really get into it all and find it a bit of a drag to be honest!

    Love all your photos and as I can't get out and about other than my garden, I have enjoyed doing so virtually thanks to you. Keep 'em coming! xx

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    1. It's funny how some foods become associated with a particular time of year like that, regardless of how much you like them. Very pleased you enjoyed the pics- just about to post some more from this week's outdoor adventures :o) xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x