Another Side To Me

The rising sun woke me early this morning as it tried desperately to shine through the window. I gave it a helping hand by drawing the curtains and welcoming the day.

There were no deer in the fields this morning so I guess they’ve moved on to pastures new for a couple of weeks. They seem to stay around for roughly two weeks at a time and then they’re gone. But not for long, they’ll be back, working their way across the field in the opposite direction. I always miss seeing the herd but I know they’ll return soon.

Great news though… I have a pair of goldfinches nesting in the front hedge! I’ll be able to watch their antics from the bedroom window with my morning cuppa. I sat and watched them yesterday morning, with tea and toast, flying in and out with beaks full of grass, feathers, and anything else they could find. They’ve certainly been very busy but they do have a good restaurant around the corner to replenish their energy. I really hope these pretty little finches stay around – it will be amazing to watch them.

My early start this morning meant that I managed to finish my chores in record time, so I took an early morning wander along the lane to watch the new lambs, who were full of beans! Lambs tails were flicking and trembling as they ran about leaping and jumping in their little lamb groups. If there’s a mound in the field, then there’s fantastic fun to be had at being King of the castle. I could stay here awhile but need to get back so that I can bake for the weekend and there’s still weeding to be done too while the weather is being kind.

As there’s not been a lot of baking going on just lately,  (I’ll blame that on the weather and not me being lazy), I need to throw a Victoria sponge together and get it in the oven first. My kitchen here at the cottage isn’t large but it’s very serviceable. Everything has a place and there seems to be  place for everything. It looks out over the bird table and its feeders and the garden so my eyes are usually flitting thereabouts  whilst I cook. The electric whisk can certainly be heard by visitors to the bird table but they seem to be used to it now, with the exception of  the collared doves. They are lily-livered when it comes to noise or the tea towel flapping about and movement in general.

The cottage is in a perfect spot, as the back door has a pretty decent vista too. It looks out onto a proper Exmoor bank complete with a stone wall…and all in the confines of the garden. The bank has delicate primroses growing on it, dwarf daffodils, forget-me-nots and other greenery so, whichever, way I stand in the kitchen, I feel like I’m outdoors. In the summer months the bank is overhung with fragrant shrubs. The warm mornings will welcome me with the smell of vanilla scented mock orange and the heady scent of lilac.

My kitchen has an old country feel to it with a hanging rail above the small table where my pots are hung. You’ll find a herb ring hanging there too where I dry herbs and flowers for use at a later date. It’s not a modern kitchen by any means but it is full of love and cooking smells most of the time so very homely. There’s always something on the go whether it be a cake, biscuits, bread, scones, quiche, creamy rice pudding, chicken pie or a jacket potato and delicious home-made soup – it’s what makes my kitchen special to me. Even the postman puts his head in the door to tell me that something smells good! Delivery drivers are always offered a piece of cake to send them on their way – it’s how I was raised and I’d like to keep the tradition going as long as I can. It’s probably a very old-fashioned thing to do these days but my offer of cake has always been received with a smile and has yet to be refused. I always strive to do something for others, to make their day a little easier, no matter how small the gesture. If I can make a person smile then I’ve done a good job, for a smile or a kind word costs nothing.

With a cake in the oven and some cheese scones waiting their turn, I started the clearing up. It’s at times like this, when I’m alone and staring at the bubbles in the sink, that I wonder where the time has gone. Today is the anniversary of my Dad’s passing and that was 26 years ago. Where did the years go? They fair-by fly past and I cannot drum into my children enough, to make the most of their lives and their children. Blink and they’ll be gone! (The years, not the children). My Mum is close by when I bake because she enjoyed baking too and she’s probably telling me to stop dolly daydreaming and take the cake out of the oven! I do this with some haste, replacing it with the scones and a rise in oven temperature.

Cheese scones done and cooling on the rack, along with the cake. I hive one away to eat warm with a cup of Earl Grey, because I can’t ignore the smell of a freshly baked scone. I’d like to say that I spread a little butter on the halved scone but that might just be stretching the truth a little. A scone without butter is like a book without words. Scone and tea in hand, I wander up the old, slate steps to the garden. Full of cracks and crevices, the steps spill over with primroses to the side and the promise of Ladies Mantle and Sweet Woodruff in the coming months. From my wooden bench here, aged with time, I’m able to look across the moor, listen to the tractors working and look to the gate when the horses pass by, which is several times a day. The clip-clop of their hooves on Tarmac or the thud of them cantering up the field is a magnet to me, and it’s not very often I resist going to stand at the gate to watch them pass by. It’s Exmoor life and a childhood memory.

The garden is a haven for me. When I chat about weeding, I don’t weed as such,  pulling out every intruder I see. Most weeds give us extremely pretty flowers so I’m quite selective in what I remove. It’s the invasive weeds that are unwelcome but perhaps ‘unwelcome’ is the wrong word as even some of those are really attractive in their foliage and flower. Wild flowers are often seen as weeds too, by some, but they’re never removed from my garden. Red campion, buttercups, swaying grasses, cow parsley, herb Robert all flow from the hedgerows, spilling over into the garden along with the plants and flowers that have been lovingly raised by me from seed. I use plants, wild flowers, herbs and weeds a great deal in everyday life for one thing or another. It’s another reason why I leave them to grow away happily as I never know when I’ll need them. I’ll  always leave a thistle or two growing safely around the perimeter as there is no greater protection for your garden and life in general than the presence of a good old thistle. Nettles too, an invasive plant, but an absolute necessity for butterflies, so they have a place. Two other wild flowers I always make sure I have are woundwort and milk thistle. I’ve been known to raid a neighbour’s garden for both these special individuals as they are invaluable to me. Woundwort is a wound healer – tried and tested – and I’ll always keep an ointment made from it in the kitchen. The leaves smell absolutely dreadful but it works for me.

Herbs are my weakness. Very special and very powerful little plants which are dotted all around my garden in with the plants and wild flowers. People think I’m mad when I tell them that herbs speak to me and they’re probably right, but touch a herb, rub its leaves between your fingers, smell its scent, and that triggers all sorts of emotions in me: holidays, childhood memories and food, to name a few.

I’m well and truly rambling now and nothing is getting done so, a freshly baked scone and tea in the garden have been consumed – simple pleasures. But even that has to come to an end as there’s a cake needs jam and buttercream making. So, it’s back to my kitchen, cool and comforting yet warm and welcoming, to finish what I’ve started.

I do like a job well done and a job well done is what I like to think I do.

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