Wednesday 25 November 2015

Marshland Local History Group supper

It has been a very varied week- a bit like the weather which too has ranged from sun, storms and frost. I was sad to see earlier in the week that a lovely sweet chestnut tree had blown down. I have enjoyed its lovely pink candles for many years but now it is reduced to a large pile of logs.

We also have been seeing a pile of logs appear in the garden but this was planned as Dan and his team came and cleaned out the dead wood and reduced the size of two of our trees which are near the house. One is a copper beech and the other a Norway maple. I did not want them felling but checking for safety and some of the lower branches removing to let more light in. It was a fine winter's day with no wind but even so I am glad that it was not me climbing the trees with a chain saw attached.

If you look carefully you can see Dan up the tree with the house to the left.

The chickens are spending tonight in their new home for the first time. They have lots of room and some spacious new nest boxes. They are still rewarding us with plenty of eggs and enjoy a mixture of layers' pellets, bread crusts and any scraps that Molly does not get.

Here are  the spacious new nest boxes filled with hay

Last night we went to the Marshland Local History Group annual supper and enjoyed sausage, mash and mushy peas and blancmange. The theme was Victorian and the entertainment was provided by the Saltmarshe Duo of Steven Goulden and Amy Butler. I was persuaded to be the page turner and found it quite challenging as  my music reading skills are limited. However I was assured that I had not done too badly.

The Goole Times sent a photographer to the event!

And finally on Monday afternoon I taught my last WEA class at Howden until 4th January 2016. We looked at pictures of Drax church and village and decided that next summer we will have a group visit. But that seems a long way away at the moment.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Bees, eggs and history

Much earlier in the year I wrote about our foray into beekeeping.  Over the summer our bees have been away to a site where they had access to Himalayan balsam. They love it and despite it being a poor year and our colony being comparatively small we did manage to extract a few jars of honey.

Now the bees have come home and the hive is strapped down at the back of the garden to prevent it being blown over when the winter winds come. In fact we are a bit worried as it is under a very large ash tree and we are intending to move it soon out of range of falling branches.

In the meantime we have removed the strips which control the varroa mite and have put onto the top of the hive a glass quilt. When I was first told of this I imagined something out of Frozen but now I have seen it I realise it is a transparent crown board which lets us see the bees without disturbing them. Beekeeping is surprising complicated with a language all of its own.

Meanwhile the chickens are taking advantage of the mild November weather by pecking grubs up from their  pen. Their new home will soon be ready as at the moment they are a bit cramped and are laying on a pile of hay rather than in the nest boxes.

One day this week I heard a light knocking at the door. I was confused as Molly who does scratch to be let in was in her bed and Poppy the cat was on the settee. So I opened the door and saw three chickens. I did not invite them in.

I have been teaching this week about a lady called Nancy Nicholson. She was the wife of Rev John Nicholson the vicar of Drax in the nineteenth century and they also ran the school, the forerunner of the present Read School at Drax.

Life for the 12 pupils then was not pleasant as the couple were at war within their marriage and eventually parted. Rev Nicholson liked a drink while Nancy was a miser and persuaded the boys to steal eggs for her. She eventually moved to Asselby where she  died in 1854, seemingly unloved and unmourned. The story was later made into a booklet but although amusing at times it is also quite sad.

Thursday 5 November 2015

More about chickens

I have had several lovely comments on my last post about our new chickens and so will try to keep chicken news up to date. They continue to lay well and we are in the process of constructing them a large new run so that when it is fox season they can be safely fastened in. Almost all have now all their feathers and are very easy to handle.

I looked out into the garden a few minutes ago to see a group of four hens pecking about in company with a beautiful cock pheasant. I tried to get a photo but he ran off.

Last night I made some buns for visitors today and used four eggs. The yolks are now a lovely deep orange compared with the yellow they were three weeks ago.

Tonight was Bonfire Night. It was cold and drizzly and the forecast is not good for Saturday night when I am hoping to go to the local village bonfire. We will wait and see.

On the history front I have been teaching about some local and interesting families. The Metham family, for example, who lived near Laxton, were prominent  from medieval times until the seventeenth century. A Thomas Metham was imprisoned in York castle during the reign of Elizabeth as it was feared that he might become a focal point for those who wanted to return England to the Roman Catholic faith while the last Thomas was killed while fighting as a Royalist at the battle of Marston Moor.

Much later Metham was the home of a famous hackney stud owned by Mr Burdett Coutts. I found an interesting  newspaper article from October 1904 about a sale of some of his horses when Mr Burdett Coutts spoke of the effect the invention of the motor car might have on horse breeding.

" There was a large attendance at Howden yesterday of dealers and buyers of horses, in connection with the sale of about hackneys, the property of Burdett-Coutts, M.P., who is reducing his [Brookfield] stud at Metham, near Howden.  The sale was conducted by Messrs. R. R. Leonard and Son, of Preston, near Hull. Good prices were, on the whole, realised. A big figure was obtained—l30gs.—for a filly foal, Nunnery, by Polonius—Fragility. Mr. W. Tubbs, London, became the purchaser.

Mr. Burdett-Coutts, speaking at a public luncheon in the Shire Hall, said since he bought Candidate from Mr. Moore, Polly Horsley from Mr. Reckitt, Lady Lyons from Mr Brough, and Primrose from Mr. Quiller Kirby, he had pretty steadily favoured Yorkshire in providing himself with the bed rock of his stud.

 This led him to make oue or two remarks about the present condition of the horse-breeding industry, and he spoke from a long experience, not only as breeder of horses, but also as a seller of the finest article in London. There had been great boom, followed by a great panic and people were tumbling over one another to get rid of their horses. He thought that the retreat was somewhat precipitate, and that horse breeders were parting too hastily with what they could not regain for many years.

 He believed the fear the motor-car was overdone. It should recognised that the new invention which people who liked travel with their body shaking like a jelly fish, or their nose full of petroleum, was not entitled disturb, terrify, and interfere with the safety of life and limb, nor the comfort of those people who chose to follow the old method of progression. But the motor-car had undoubtedly come to stay, and his object was to inquire what wculd be the real effect on horse breeding. In his opinion, there would always a place for the very fine harness horse, which—he did not say to flatter them—was best seen in Yorkshire. People who liked to have horses, and who had the money pay for them—would have them. What would those people do, and where would they if people in Yorkshire gave up horse breeding altogether? "