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Showing posts from August, 2009

Monday morning and high tide

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Basso has chosen a chair commensurate with is station in life!!!!!
What a fabulous day I had yesterday we set of at the crack of dawn for the hours drive to Dover. It was beautiful and sunny and there was hardly a car on the road. It made driving a real pleasure - something very rare these days. Once we arrived at the shooting ground the sky clouded over which was perfect for shooting. We settled ourselves down and had breakfast of a lovely bacon and egg roll washed down with a hot mug of coffee. We had just finished when the rest of our group arrived and we were off to shoot our 100 clays. I am pleased to report that my shooting is improving. I even had a go at a ball trap which is an interesting way of launching the clays - it is totally random so you have no idea which way the clays are going to be fired. This actually is somehow easier as you shoot completely naturally without any preconceived ideas and therefore tend to hit more of them. Roger my mentor was very complimen…

Sunday morning and off shooting

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The autumn flowers are here, and summer is coming to an end. Yesterday, I tried to rest up a little in anticipation of the busy forthcoming week. I took the dogs for a walk at about 9.30 just in time to watch the tide disappearing down the estuary. Basso was on the lead for about 50% of the walk and I am trying to get him to come back have his lead on for a while then let him off to run again. It is all part of the new discipline regimen and also I hope he doesn't associate the lead with going home and therefore a bad thing in his mind. I gave the hen house a good clean and brought all their water and food containers to the kitchen for a thorough wash. For lunch we had bits and pieces from the fridge and I then spent the afternoon watching Persuasion on the TV. For dinner we had a nice piece of sirloin steak which I did on a red hot griddle pan and we had saute potatoes lyonnaise and green beans with garlic and parsley. Then a bowl of plums and custard what a feast........ …

Saturday and a day of rest

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Brambly apples near maturity - time to start thinking of pies and crumbles. The blackberries are looking wonderful this year and I feel a picking session coming on. I have a cultivated plant in the garden which makes it easy but there are never enough so I usually go gleaning in the hedge rows as well.Basso's training session went well yesterday and my basic problems have been identified - he is disrespectful and disobedient because I allow him to be so!!! When Barry takes him he does everything he is asked because he knows that Barry will brook no nonsense from him. I need to be more demanding so I am going to have to be a lot stricter and not let him get away with a thing. He is quite strong minded so there are likely to be a few battles of will and I am not to settle for second best. The session was cut short by a downpour and none of us had coats so we were fairly wet when we got back to the car. We stopped off on the way back and did a bit of shopping so that we are fully f…

Friday and very late

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Sorry to be so late this morning but I slept in very late - the photo shows Jeff having a go in Shiona's Ferrari while Mike sits on the back of our car. We had a great day shooting at West Kent which is a very nice venue and I played with trying to use two eyes to follow the clay then using one eye to shoot with which seem to work quite well. We all went back to Shiona's for lunch and then we had a nice scrumping session for 3 different varieties of apples one cooker and two eaters. Then we moved on to plums and bullaces not to mention a few mulberries. We loaded Jeff's car with fruit and sent him on his merry way. We eventually made our way home at about 4pm by which time I was shattered and it was too late to have a sleep. I brought home a bag of plums which I stewed and we had with custard for supper. What memories it brought back I can remember my gran making plums and custard when I was a child - she used to bottle tons of them so it was a regular occurrence in her …

Thursday and a busy day ahead

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Dogs swimming lesson in the Medway. Please note the wet trousers, not much fun to drive home in!!! The black lab is Yoda Basso's friend from school and Sandi his owner is the photographer. Well, the forecast rain never really materialised yesterday we had just one short shower during the day and another at dusk. Unfortunately that meant a serious amount of watering was necessary but I suppose I shouldn't moan as I did get all my washing dry. Preservation of glut of plums. I have dried half of them and will now vacuum pack them. The other half have been de-stoned and frozen - if I gather some more today I will try bottling then I should have a good idea of which is the best method to preserve them. I am off bright and early to Shiona's house where I will leave the two terriers but take Mary and Basso with us to the shooting ground. After shooting we are all going back to Shiona's house for lunch and no doubt the dogs will have a grand time running around in her garden. S…

Wednesday and a day of rest

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Beautiful flower on the courgette plant. Yesterday was fairly busy Jane came and worked her magic on the house. All the bedding was changed and is being processed through the washing machine. The one load I managed to get on to the line is still there as we had to leave at about 11am to get to Shiona for lunch. She was going to use up the left overs from her barbecue on Sunday which as it turned out was delicious. It was a roast fillet of venison shepherds pie with half the topping of mashed potato and the other with couscous salad - sounds weird but tasted fantastic. Mike and I crashed out on the bed for a snooze and Shiona bravely took all four dogs for a walk and a swim in the river. Needless to say Basso only had a paddle but he was pretty exhausted when we went to the training class which I think made life a bit easier for me. We filled a carrier bag full of plums from her neighbours three before setting out for the training ground. Basso did a couple of really nice retri…

Tuesday just getting light

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Tonight is dog training and this is picture of two of my companions. The training sessions will be drawing to a close at the end of the month as we will no longer have sufficient light. The class starts at 7pm and it is getting dark now by 8pm. Also many of the dogs will be working once the shooting season starts. Yesterday, was a relatively peaceful day I took the dogs for a walk in the woods at around 11am but it was already getting very hot and humid so we rather shambled around - we also had a four-year old with us and he cannot walk that fast. The dogs had a really good time and Basso enjoyed running about being a dog. However, I did put him on his lead and make him walk to heal for the last part of the walk, boring for both of us but necessary for training purposes. By the time we got back to the car we were all very hot and sweaty and the dogs were panting furiously. So it was back home to collapse in a heap!!! For lunch we had a bowl of courgette soup with Parmesan crout…

Monday morning again

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Well, I had a relatively peaceful day yesterday and spent most of the morning processing the bounty from the garden. I picked runner beans, peas and courgettes from the vegetable plot and cucumbers and tomatoes from the glass house. The photo shows the tomatoes that are growing in the window box out side the kitchen window. They are tiny but very sweet and tend to get eaten as we pass by them. I then gave the chickens a good clean out and replaced their bedding and filled their water and food containers. I have three blueberry bushes, which are growing in containers as my soil is alkaline and they are acid lovers, but despite that, they have given a reasonable crop of fruit this year. I have had to protect them with a piece of netting to stop the birds robbing all the fruit. The raspberries need picking but as yet I haven't got round to doing that. The down stairs loo seat finally came to the end of its life and Mike went up to B&Q and bought a new one which has the &q…

Sunday and shattered

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Basso and I trudging up the hill and back to the car. What a day we had it was absolutely exhausting. We arrived at the site of the test and very fortunately we had a 4x4 as no ordinary car would have made it sump intact as the ground was extremely rough. Once everyone had gathered about 20 dogs and handlers we were given a sheet of paper with the various tasks on it and I went to do the hunting first. Well it was two hours standing and waiting while 3 other dogs did their stuff. Finally it was Bassos turn and we set of into some thick forest with loads of fallen trees, not easy, with a now excited, dog on a lead. When we reached the allotted spot he was released and was supposed to hunt and find some quail that were in a small cage covered by a towel. He quartered reasonably well but was much more intent on following the scent of the bitches that had gone before him. He did find the quail and acknowledged them but was not sure what they were. Understandable, as he had never encounter…

Saturday and a big day for Basso

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This morning we are off to a place called Friars Gate somewhere in the Ashdown forest the other side of Crowborough for a natural aptitude test. The dogs will be tested on various skills like tracking pointing and retrieving and also water. I am not worried about the other things but I think water might be Basso's down fall as he is still not keen to swim. Anyway we will have to see as I don't really have any idea how the day will be organised. We will be taking a picnic lunch with us so lets hope the weather is nice and not too hot.

Yesterday was quite windy and I decided that I would have to water all the pots as we had not seen any of the promised rain. About half an hour after I had finished the heavens opened and we had a really good downpour but it only lasted for a short time and I'm not sure that the ground got very wet.

Shiona left bright and early which was just as well as Len and Margaret arrived a little early anyway we all had coffee and a tour of the garden a…

Friday and the end of another week

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Mike likes marrow so I let a couple of courgettes go and now they are marrows. He likes it cooked with butter and black pepper so that is what I did with one of them and we had it with slices of calves liver pan fried and new potatoes. The shooting went well and Jeff met us at Dartford as he was running late. The whole time we were shooting it was getting blacker and blacker over head and we were sure that we were in for a soaking. As luck would have it the black clouds passed over head and we stayed dry however the strong winds make the shooting quite interesting as it carried the clays on all sorts of different trajectories. We had the usual bacon and egg sandwich for lunch and then made our way home. Shiona had a hair appointment in Maidstone so she beetled off for that and Jeff went straight home from Dartford. The promised rain never happened and we are still dry as a bone so I will need to do some serious watering today - I temporarily planted all the brassicas in pots as…

Thursday and shooting

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Bamboo canes and the thinned out stand please note the devastated and dried out patch of lawn!!!!! Was it hot or what yesterday! We whistled around and did our bits and pieces as early as we could then as the heat built so we wilted and by mid afternoon I was sprawled on my bed under a fast running fan. Today, they have forecast rain but the sky is clear at the moment and there is no sign of it. No doubt, it will wait until we are going shooting but I am not going to complain as the garden is desperate for a drink. Jeff is driving over from Bagshot and Shiona from Goudhurst before we all decant into our car and go to Dartford. Things are easier at this shooting club as we can have a baguette for lunch but I have made a bit of desert for us after gun cleaning. I made a chocolate and beetroot cake which is delicious with fresh raspberries and cream. My winter brassicas arrived in the post yesterday and I am going to plant them up in pots for the time being as I will need to make some sort…

Wednesday and a day of rest

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Everything is happening at once in the garden cucumbers, tomatoes, runner beans, raspberries, courgettes, figs, peas and lettuce. I slept the sleep of the just last night with the exception of one bout of cramp I slept solidly through the night and woke this morning feeling refreshed instead of exhausted. Basso slept well too as I think we were both tired after training. The trainer had brought a very large extremely heavy dummy, which is supposed to represent a hare, which Basso was sent to retrieve, and boy did he enjoy that, at last something commensurate with his size and ability. I actually got quite cold after the sun went down as I had put on just a short sleeved shirt as it was so hot. We stopped at the fish and chip shop for the usual supper which we motored through with gusto as by 10pm we are all pretty hungry. The dogs love sharing the portion of chips with us so it is a real family supper!!!!! John came yesterday and he made a great job of my bamboo which was growing i…

Tuesday and a busy one

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Two exhausted school chums sleeping after swimming. Basso and his mate Yoda from gundog school went for a nice walk and a swim yesterday. Yoda started the session rather early by falling in the pond and had to be rescued not once but three times. When we got home from the river they both had a shower to get the salt out of their coats and then piled into bed for a sleep. I in the mean time I put the pie in the oven and we had it with french beans and new potatoes. Sandi ,Yoda's owner stayed and had some lunch with us while the dogs slept. The plumbing is in a state of disarray still with both cisterns out of action. True to their word the plumbers turned up a 7.45 but just has a tour of inspection to see what was required. They then returned at 11 to make a start. The cisterns and boiler were dismantled then off they went to get parts. By 3pm the boiler was back up and running but the parts for the cistern will not arrive until this afternoon so the job will finally be finis…

Monday and the start of another week

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Success at last one of the big fat brown rats who have been enjoying my hen's food. Dispatched!!! Sorry if this is a bit shocking first thing in the morning. Yesterday went reasonably well and I shot some good stands and some bad. Unfortunately, it was very crowded and it took a very long time. In the end I gave up the last 2 stands and came away as Mike had been sitting in the car park for 3 hours and I thought that was enough. We drove swiftly home and eventually had lunch at about 3pm but which time we were starving hungry. Fortunately, we had a fridge full of bits and pieces which we demolished with a sliced baguette and copious drinks as it was pretty hot by then. I promptly took myself off to my bed for a sleep as I had been up early that morning. This morning we are expecting the plumbers to arrive at about 8am and then my friend and her black lab "Yoda" are coming so that we can take the dogs swimming in the river at 10 when the tide is high. I have already…

Sunday morning and very warm

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Off to Surrey shooting this morning and the weather looks fine for it. It will take about an hour on the M25 so lets hope the traffic is flowing smoothly.
I haven't made up my mind whether to take Basso and the boys or not it really depends on how hot it will be. It may well be better to leave all the dogs at home.
The house is in a bit of turmoil as we cleared various areas in anticipation of the plumbers who are now coming on Monday morning so it is not worth clearing up until after they have been.
It is still pitch dark outside so it is difficult to anticipate what the weather is going to be like but I hope we have a bit of cloud cover as I don't fancy getting boiled in the sun. It is a amazing how quickly the days are getting shorter. I notice it more in the morning than in the evening but we will soon be stopping dog training on Tuesdays as it gets dark too quickly. The meat pie that I had earmarked for supper last night is still in the fridge as we really didn't fanc…

Saturday morning looking very dull

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Still training as the sun goes over the trees and disappears!!!

















Shiona left bright and early yesterday and we fiddled around getting odds and ends done. The afternoon training session went well and I have plenty of homework to keep me busy until the next one. Basso is coming on well and while he will never out strip a lab at retrieving he should end up being a good all rounder. When I got home at around 6pm poor Mike was sitting looking all despondent and I asked him how he had go on with the plumber. "he didn't turn up" he said so I grabbed the phone and rang. Apparently they had knocked but at number 81 instead of 18 so now they are re-booked to come at 8am on Monday morning. I am only grateful that it is only a boiler service not a plumbing emergency!!!! Basso was so thirsty that he drank half a bucket of water and then when I gave him his supper he promptly brought the whole lot up again so I think he may well be a bit hungry this morning. Did he do it outsid…

Friday warm and cloudy

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Would you believe after the sever hair cut it got the wisteria is in flower again.

Yesterdays shooting went well Shiona and I shot about averagely but Jeff killed every bird with ease with the exception of one stand where he just couldn't seem to hit the clays from the high tower no matter how hard he tried.

We had our usual lunch of a bacon and egg baguette and diet coke and Basso got to play with his labradoodle friend. The seem to do nothing but box one another which must be a boy thing. When we got home I cleaned guns with Jeff while Shiona went a picked raspberries which we had as desert with a splash of double cream. Jeff left at about 4pm clutching his obligatory jar of honey and Shiona volunteered to help me with the hives. We returned the wet frames for the bees to work on. If only they could be left to wash up the remaining equipment!!!! It was then decided that Shiona might just as well stay for supper and after we made up a fresh bed she stayed the night. Today, we are…

Thursday morning and still raining

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Basso charging around in Shiona's garden with Tuc in hot pursuit
Well not such an early start this morning this must be the first time in ages that I have slept so late. We are due to go shooting today an I was worried that it was going to be very hot - well it is raining instead so heat wont be the problem. Yesterday though I wanted a day of rest turned out to be quite busy - I meet my friend and her three children at Riverside country park where we walked my three and dogs and the two chocolate labs that she walks for a couple who are out at work. I needed to see her to give her a jar of honey. We then drove round to other friends delivering jars of honey. I had left my various stews on the stove so we had to get back fairly quickly and we just made it before they started to stick. For lunch I had got out the pack of pigs liver and the one kidney which were my half of the pig. I decided to lightly flour and fry them with some onions and a splash of sherry - though I am not …

Wednesday and bin day

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The photo shows three of the jars of honey and a plate of figs from my tree which I have rescued from the black birds and BassoWe had a lovely day yesterday at Shiona's the weather was gorgeous and the dogs had a field day playing in her large garden. It looks like Mary her dog might well be pregnant so we are hopeful of puppies in September. After an interesting lunch of Bobotie a south African sort of shepherds pie made with lamb from her local small holder we all piled into one of the various beds and had an hours kip for which I was deeply grateful. After cups of tea and a handful or two of some lovely grapes which she has growing in her glasshouse we set off for dog training. It was pretty hot and the sun was still shining brightly as we made our way to the furthest corner of the field. Basso I'm pleased to say was behaving much better and all in all he was not too bad with his retrieves. He also did some jumping which I'm glad to say we had already practiced at…

Tuesday and a busy one

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This mornings photos are of the equipment
used to extract the honey.



1) is the uncapping tray showing the uncapped frames hanging in the rack dripping before being spun.

2) is the spinner in which the frames are centrifuged3) is the straining and settling tankI hope this makes the visualisation of the process a bit clearer and as you can see there is quite a lot of washing up to clean all the equipment. However, I think it has all been worth it now that I have the 40lbs of honey. Yesterday afternoon I spent visiting all my neighbours and delivering each a pound jar of honey - this is a political move as I need to keep them all on side and after all they are the ones providing the flowers and nectar for my bees. It has also been very helpful that the media has been making a big thing of the problems with bees so they are all aware that I am doing my bit for the environment.As it happens I am not a great lover of honey but I did treat myself to a slice of toast and honey for desert l…

Monday morning

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Well here goes I will try and walk you through the honey extraction process, it was a good job James was here as it certainly made life easier to have and extra pair of hands. While we waited for the sun to get nice and warm we sat having breakfast and planned our strategy so we all knew what we were doing and made the necessary preparations in the garage as that is where we had decided to do the extraction. So at about 10 am we set off to the hives all suited and booted and lifted the heavy honey laden frames out of the super. The bee valves had done their job and there were very few bees on the comb. We loaded the frames into the wheelbarrow and brought them to the garage after reassembling the hives. The first process was to uncap for which we used a bread knife and sliced through the wax and honey. This was done over an uncapping tray which allowed the cappings then to drain their honey into a tray beneath. Once uncapped the frames were loaded into the spinner which was mounted on…

Sunday and there will be honey for tea

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Today is the day I'm going to remove the honey from the hives. I have all the bee association equipment and James strong arms to help me. Never having done this before it is going to be an interesting task. Yesterday, I had to put clearing boards on the hive which are sort of one way valves that allow the bees to go back down to the brood box but prevent them from returning to the super where the honey is stored. This should mean that the comb will be free of bees so that I can take it with little risk. Then it is a case of using a sort of centrifuge to spin the honey out of the comb before it is passed through a very fine sieve to remove bits of wax. Once the honey is out of the comb it is returned to the bees for them to clean up and refill. The whole process needs to be done in a sealed environment as the smell of honey will bring every bee and wasp for miles around and I don't want my house filled with insects. Once the process is finished all the equipment needs w…

Saturday and a bit cooler

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Hibiscus in flower.Yesterday was a revalation in terms of dog training and I found that Barry the trainer was a very down to earth sort of a guy who clarified many of the ideas I had. It came as a bit of a shock to Basso who suddenly found that he was asked for so much more. The main problem I have had is that I am not demanding enough and have been allowing him to get away with things and therefore become disrespectful of me as pack leader. He drew a very good analogy to explain that the basic training needs to continue by likening it to plate spinning in that you constantly need to return to the first plate and keep it spinning even when you have plates four and five up and spinning. So we are now on a basic regimen of ensuring that he does what he is told each and every time and none of my instructions are to be ignored. This is going to be hard work as I will not only need to be consistent but also persistent. He also suggested that I abandon words like stay or wait as the o…

Friday and still very hot

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Nice action photo of James breaking the gun and the cartridges being ejected. We had a lovely day yesterday but it was hotter than hell and as you can see there is no shade. We all shot reasonably well and the boys did particularly well considering that James has only shot twice before and his mate has never shot. We finally finished at about 2pm by which time we were very ready for some lunch and a few gallons of water to drink. The bacon and egg baguettes were very welcome. We got home at about 3.30 and after tea and gun cleaning Shiona picked herself a container of raspberries and everyone departed. I had prepared a couple of pork chops for supper but we didn't have those until much later when at last the heat seemed to diminish. It finally came on to rain at about 10pm but we could really have used a good thunderstorm to clear the air. This morning my thermometers are reading 27 degrees inside the house and 20 degrees outside despite it being dark and only 4.30am. Tod…

Thursday and a busy day ahead

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The cucumbers are in full swing. We had a really lovely day yesterday but it did get a bit hot and muggy. I managed to get most of my chores done and gave the kitchen a good clean. The laundry dried outside so now I have a nice big pile of ironing to keep me out of mischief. Mike bought me some nice new french lavender plants and a couple of sage bushes as well so I have planted up the bed that looked the worst. The bees have already found the lavender and were assaulting it before I got it out of the pots. As we haven't had any significant rain for a couple of days I have had to spend a couple of hours watering the various pots which have dried out dramatically. The chickens had a thorough clean out but despite having containers for their food they still scatter it all over the place. They seem convinced that there is something better underneath. Mike decided that an old frying pan might make a good food container but they stand in it and kick all the food out.Basso spen…

Wednesday and sunny

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Very large lilies now in flower. I'm a bit late this morning as it was another late night for me last night. The moon had risen before we stopped dog training and Basso was absolutely shattered as was I. The courgette flowers were a great success but boy does the house smell of frying. I think I will have to have a blitz clean if I am to get rid of the smell. I have flung open all the windows but it still seems to linger. Training last night was a bit better than usual and I think Basso is getting the message that he is not there to muck about. Sadly, the training stops in September as the more advanced dogs go out working so I will have to keep up the training through the winter if we are not to disgrace ourselves when it starts up again next year.

I planted a couple of new sage bushes yesterday as the ones I had had become woody and old and I also pulled out the lavender which had gone the same way. I would however like to replace it so I may take a trip to the local gard…

Tuesday morning and another good day is forecast

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The anemones are in bloom I have two varieties one pink and one white. I must admit that I usually associate them with autumn which I suppose is just round the corner. The wonderful Jane is on holiday this week so I hope she has some good weather. I will have to fill the gap and get on with the hoovering and dusting if the place is not to turn into a midden by the time she is back. John the gardener is coming for 2 hours today and I hope to get a couple of the heavier jobs done with his help. The fig tree could use some pruning back as it is sending out suckers from the base like it was going our of fashion. The fruit is ripening but the black birds are stealing it as fast as it ripens. Last night I waited for the sun to set before I went out and did some weed killing around the bee hives. Even though they had all gone to bed they were quick to come to the entrance to see what I was up to and if the hive was in any danger. If the weather holds I would like to have a look in t…

Monday morning and still dark

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Wild fennel which is really a weed but I have left it in situ as the bees seem to really love it. I had a very interesting day yesterday as a guest of Lady Sondes and the Lees court estate. It was a gathering of all those who are to be involved in the forthcoming shooting season which included loaders, pickers up and beaters. I am hoping to join the beaters which if nothing else should do wonders for my fitness. There was a magnificent hog roast with assorted salads and large floury baps followed by strawberries and buckets of cream all washed down with copious quantities of Pims. As I was driving I stuck to orange juice. The weather was, if anything, a bit hot as we were stood outside the beaters hut where there is no shade. There must have been about 60 people there and I was introduced to just about everyone but I'm sure I will never remember half of the names. They all seemed extremely nice and I was made to feel most welcome. The friend who introduced me sent me home wit…

Sunday morning and the sun is shining

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This photo shows an unusual colour break on the blue clematis there have suddenly appeared numbers of deep red flowers? I have never seen this before. The boots will need breaking in as they look far too new so I will be wearing them for dog training on Tuesday night where if the weather forecast is right we are in for yet another soaking. Yesterday, was fine until the early evening though it was cloudy and overcast. I took the dogs for the promised swimming lesson but the tide was on the turn by the time I got there so it was not so easy. I found myself sinking into the mud and lost my Crocs on occasion but fortunately they float so I was able to retrieve them. Basso still didn't get in and swim but he was more amenable and I don't think it will be long before he plucks up the courage to take the plunge. We all returned home stinking of river mud so it was hosing down in the garden for all the dogs which they seem to accept as a necessary evil. I never got round to doing …

These boots are made for walking

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The long awaited boots have arrived and were out of the box and on my feet in seconds. As you see they are sufficiently wide to take trousers inside, and are just as waterproof as wellington boots. Needless to say I wore them all day and despite it being quite hot my feet remained dry as they are gore tex lined.

We had a lovely time yesterday and the dogs had a nice walk in some woods close to our friends house before we set off for lunch. While we were walking a large dog fox ran straight across our path and Basso gave chase but to my absolute amazment he came straight back to his whistle and abandoned his quarry.
Perhaps all the training is now beginning to take effect and he is finally getting the message.

We had a nice meal but I was struck by the predominance of sugar in all the dishes even the bread I had with my wild mushroom soup tasted sweet to me. This may be because I am so unused to having sugar in food that I taste it very easily.

The weather forecast promised a good mo…