15 Apr 2016

It’s April, what happened to the weather?

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them:
there ought to be as many for love.
Margaret Atwood

With the longer evenings since the clocks went forward, last Saturday was the first day that we had the opportunity to visit our favourite spot at Beacon Fell in the early evening.  We’d been on a visit to family and thought we could come back the ‘scenic’ route and whilst it was likely to be far too cold for a picnic and the timing might well be wrong, we packed a flask and books, thinking we could at least enjoy the scenery for a while and have a little peaceful interlude.

This little chap and several mates dashed to the fence to see us as we passed and weren't spooked at all. If it hadn't been lashing down, I would have got out of the car and tried for some better photos.
This little chap and several mates dashed to the fence to see us as we passed and weren’t spooked at all. If it hadn’t been lashing down, I would have got out of the car and tried for some better photos.

The weather in the morning had been glorious, despite a frigid wind, but the forecast clearly showed it worsening as the day progressed, but we were determined to get out anyway.  It didn’t give any indication however of just how badly it would worsen.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen weather quite like it before.

It was spotting with rain as we closed the miles to our very favourite spot and the intensity increased to the point that by the time we came to a standstill, we were reduced to a robust negotiation as to who should venture out to the back of the car to fetch the flask and our books.  My husband grabbed the bag he thought everything was in, which thankfully at least included my pocket camera and the flask.

The rain increased still further and we commented on how it was now clearly sleety – from the way it made little bumpy splodges on the car windows.  Then there was a gentle thud on the roof of the car and then another.  We demisted the windscreen, wondering what it was and could clearly see great big dollops of snow in amongst the rain.

It was the oddest phenomena.  Sometimes in summer when it rains very hard, you get a lot of leaves coming down with the rain, torn straight off the trees by the ferocity of the raindrops.  At a glance, this looked similar, but the lumps among the raindrops were big white dollops of snow, big enough to look like leaves and to make a sound when they hit the car.  Normally rain is all of a similar texture, with largely evenly sized droplets, but this was torrential and substantial rain, with visible lumps of snow falling at the same time.  The snow pieces were at least twice the size of a 50p piece and dropping slower than the rain around it, drifting down at a leisurely pace.

The rain that fell that day had great big lumps of snow in it and as the cloud lifted, we could see that more of it had been snow at slightly higher levels. I felt rather sorry for the tiny lambs out in the sudden blast of cold and unpleasant weather.
The rain that fell that day had great big lumps of snow in it and as the cloud lifted, we could see that more of it had been snow at slightly higher levels. I felt rather sorry for the tiny lambs out in the sudden blast of cold and unpleasant weather.

I variously tried photographing and videoing this strange weather experience, but nothing I got could do it justice, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.  We listened to the Grand National horse race on the radio, then concluded that it was at least improving a little, the sky was tangibly brightening and the cloud lifting – at the zenith of this weather, the hillsides adjacent were completely hidden, but as they re-appeared, they were dusted with snow.  Not something I would have put on the list of things I might have expected to see today.

We headed home whilst it was still light, hoping that the better weather to follow would show itself so that we could enjoy the scenery on the way home.  There were at least some new lambs in the fields now, having not yet seen many, so I did manage to snag a couple of photographs and you can see above how wintry and cold the weather had been.  I must admit to being a little concerned at the tiny new lambs shivering away in this unexpected wintry snap.  The following day was thankfully sunny and spring-like, so I’m sure that they enjoyed that much better.

My work this week:

I worked several existing designs for orders and to replenish stock and made one or two variations of ‘classic’ designs that I have in shop that have sold consistently over the years – spiral earrings for example, have always been a favourite and I made a couple of pairs of un-hammered simple spirals.  As with all seemingly ‘simple’ designs, poor workmanship has nowhere to hide, so you have to work with care.


20 Aug 2010

Piggies and other farm animals – what’s not to love

“Pigs are not that dirty. And they’re smart, strange little creatures. They just need love.” Shelley Duvall.

“The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.” Elizabeth Bishop.

Someone posted an especially adorable photograph of two young pigs asleep today, a day when my frame of mind was not terribly positive, my disposition not terribly agreeable or my prospect of achieving much, all that good. So the pigs were especially appreciated and I set off to look at some of my own favourite pig photographs.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view, they look rather dark here on the page.

I was surprised to see how many people expressed a love of piggies and enjoyed the photographs, I’d always felt I was a little unusual in liking them so much. But, let’s face it, what’s not to love.

So whilst I work on more technical and worthy articles for future blogs, I thought a wet Friday was a good day to spread some porcine loveliness. And while I’ve been searching out photographs to post, I found some other favourites of farm animals – which I think make lovely subjects. Because we spend as much time as possible in the English Lake District and on a farm, I do spend time in the company of farm stock and they’re as entertaining and enjoyable as any wildlife or domestic pet.

Herdwick sheep are a regular sight in the Lake District and resident on the moors, where they wander about in their individual territories and don’t bother with you and just go about their business. I love to see them, they’re so photogenic that I’ve taken a massive amount of photos of them.

We once had a conversation with the farmer, whose property we regularly stay on, about different breeds of sheep and Mr Boo made a comment about how Herdwicks were reputed to be very territorial, each animal sticking to a relatively small area of moorland and subsequent generations do too. He seemed perplexed that the very idea should even be noteworthy, commenting; “well, of course they do, you remember where you live don’t you and go home every night?”

This particular photograph has always been informally called ‘Reservoir Sheep’ when I identify it in my mind as the way they walked down the road reminded me of that scene from the film.

In the area where we stay in the Lakes, quite a few of the local farmers keep Highland Cattle, what we affectionately call ‘Muckle Coos’ – which must always be said in a Scottish accent.

I spotted this scene one summer evening when we were returning home from a day out – the cows were spilling across this field as the setting sun filtered through the trees. We’ve driven past this spot many, many times since that day and I have not seen the light as lovely since.

This is Lucy, one of the dairy herd at the farm – they often pop their heads over the wall as we drive past and as the field is higher than the lane, their heads pop over from above you as you pass.

This particular meal held up traffic in both directions for several minutes, but I don’t think anyone minded.

Not really a farm animal – but when I spotted it earlier, I thought it worthy of inclusion as it made me laugh again. Each spring, usually just after Easter, there is a local country fair in celebration of the local delicacy of damsons – called Damson Day – and we try and catch it if we’re in the area, it’s worth a visit to support a community which we consider our second home. One of the attractions a couple of years ago was Ferret Roulette. You paid your 50p stake, someone chose a ferret and you each took a card with a number – which each corresponded to a tube radiating from a central drop point.

The selected ferret, was popped into the central core and if he emerged out of the spoke you had the number of, you won a modest cash prize. I certainly lost more than I won – but it was worth every penny. I was most disappointed that it wasn’t there last year, I’d saved some 50p coins specially.

Don’t you just love the way lambs go mental in an evening. This is from the window of the caravan we stay in – it’s lovely that we have such delightful entertainment laid on – we’ve wasted many an hour just watching them play. The orchard is long and thin and they just hurl themselves from one end to another en-mass in an evening.

This Easter I saw one of the funniest things I’ve seen a non-domestic or trained animal do in a long time. One of the ewes was watching the youngsters collectively run back and forth and she stood there intently following them with her eyes, having totally abandoned her eating, from one end of the field to the other. On about the third or fourth pass, she joined them – running full pelt alongside them – she ran to the far end and back again and as they came to a dip in the field where the land has creased into a mini scar down the hillside, she leapt vertically into the air over the gap. When she landed, panting, she shook herself off and carried on with her supper.

She had clearly watched them and remembered how much fun it was and wanted to join in. I’ve never seen a full grown sheep join in before and I was sorry that it was getting dark and happened very fast and I just didn’t have a camera to record it for posterity. To be honest, I was laughing way too hard to have managed a decent photograph.

We followed this farm vehicle on the road one evening and I managed to get one photograph as it slowed to turn. Unfortunately the third dog on the left just dropped down at that point, but up until then, it had been stood up at the front too. I wonder if the planks hadn’t been there, if the German Shepherd would have been stood up too?

We once followed a similar convoy down a very narrow single track lane, with the addition of about 40 sheep. The sheep were running along the lane, followed by the farmer on his quad, with his 2 trusty sheepdog in his trailer. It was slow going and we tried not to look like we were pressuring them to hurry – after all, they were working and we were just having a nice day out.

The farmer slowed and gave a complex sounding whistled command and the dogs jumped out of the trailer and ahead of the vehicle – they herded the sheep up a side lane to a farm and held them there, a dog at each end of the flock, just off the road and he pulled into the mouth of the lane to let us pass. He then gave another whistle and the dogs returned the sheep to their path along the main lane and jumped back into the trailer.

I have huge, huge admiration and affection for the farming community, they are interesting and hard working people with the most amazing sets of skills and heads full of incredibly valuable knowledge. I always feel it is an honour to witness such a demonstration and can only stand back and applaud. I always enjoy watching the amazing teamwork between man and sheep dog, where the mearest hint of audible command, can make something fabulous happen.