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Supermarket substitutions

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  How is a coconut like a pineapple? They must be the same in some way because when I wanted to order a coconut at my online supermarket they were ‘currently unavailable’. I could substitute with a pineapple, it said.   I suppose they are both a similar size, they both have a rough exterior, and they are both edible. But I am not sure how one could be used instead of the other. I have heard some very strange stories of substitutions but what my supermarket could not have known is that I wanted the coconut for the birds and a pineapple would not be suitable at all. A fresh coconut cut in half and hung on a tree attracts the great spotted woodpecker, the tit family and even the robin. The windfall apples are now attracting birds of a different kind. Blackbirds, thrushes, fieldfares, and redwings are crowding all over the apples that fell to the ground. Birds like the fruit when they are beginning to rot. They eat the flesh and I see the empty apple skins scattered in our orchard. T

Winder wonders

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  When is the best time to have your water tank spring a leak? The answer is, of course, ‘never’, but probably the worst time is at night, at sub-zero temperatures in a pandemic. We were ready for bed, waiting to watch a relaxing TV programme with our cups of cocoa (not really!) when Mr T went to put his towel in the airing cupboard. The carpet was wet. ‘It must be our hot water bottles stored there,’ we thought, but we have not used them for years. ‘We must have put something away wet.’ We would not put anything in the airing cupboard dripping with water. ‘Condensation?’ We had never had trouble before.   We ran out of our denial tactics when we saw a cold trickle down the big copper cylinder. There was a leak. We decided against holding our finger in the hole like the little Dutch boy. Instead, I checked the list of emergency plumbers online. The third one picked up. They would come – for a huge call out price and an unbelievable amount per hour. I booked them. To cheer mysel

Rising from the debris

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  My amaryllis fell off the kitchen dresser today. I have watched it for about two months as it developed eight huge trumpet-like, bright red flowers. It has been a wonderful display but, as if on cue, it toppled onto the kitchen floor, spilling compost, cracking the pot, and marking the end of an era. The celebrations are over, and we are well and truly into January 2021 and a new lockdown. January is named after Janus the Roman god with two faces – one looking back and one looking forward. But I am not keen on looking back to last year and I don’t expect you are either. It was interesting, though, when Radio 4 told us about early editions of The Archers. I have followed this programme for 70 years, on and off. I was five years old when it started, and I listened every evening along with my father who was a farmer. We heard Dan deciding to get rid of the horses and replace them with tractors, which is what we did on our farm. The horses went to the knacker’s yard and we bought a

Hoping for a better year

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  I have now spent nine months in isolation. The new year should be a second birth for me, like a pregnancy ending and a fresh life beginning. And that is what I am looking forward to, but of course it is not as simple as that. I heard that someone’s new year resolution was to go out of the front gate more often than their wheely bin. I like this one and have adopted it for my own. I am not sure that it will be any time soon. But you never know what could happen in 2021. To keep us going until then, we have bought ourselves a kestrel nesting box. It can be situated near a road because the kestrel does not fly low like the owl. So it is even safe for the kestrel to hover over the motorway to find food. It eats voles and I have seen the kestrel many times, this winter, on the wires above our Oak Meadow, patiently searching. There are lots of voles in this field. The RSPB instructions say that the box must face the towards the east, away from water and with a clear fly-in for the bi

Determination and hope

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  I always feel that there is hope now that we have gone past the winter solstice. Until this week the daylight hours have been getting shorter and shorter by the minute, but that is all over. We have turned a corner, now that the darkest day has gone, and we are working towards shorter nights and longer days. It is only little by little, but on 21 st December the solstice sun set here in the afternoon at 15.38, by the end of the week the sun sets at 16.01. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I remember my grandmother saying that after the winter solstice the day was a cockerel stride longer each week. Three minutes seems about right for the stride of a cockerel. I have made two marks on the grey slate of our sunroom floor. They show where the sun reaches on the summer and winter solstices. On the shortest day, the sun is low and can almost touch the far wall. But it will never get there because, from now on, it will be getting higher in the sky. And, by the summer, the sunshine will

Lights in the darkness

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  I know it’s an old joke, in this pandemic, but it really is difficult for some of us. The days are all the same when it’s misty and murky, as it often is in December. Sometimes it is all over, and I am drawing the curtains again, when I have hardly registered that the day has begun. How do you know what day it is? By what’s on TV? By the dustbin lorry driving down the lane? By when the milk is delivered?   I have just been talking to a friend on the phone – she sent me a card and have not sent her one. I have not sent any cards. That was our promise this year, we would give to charity instead. For every card we get, £1 goes to charity. I rang my friend, who lives in Yorkshire, to thank her, she is shielding like me, and she said, “My son rings every weekday morning at 9am before he goes to work. But one day last week he didn’t ring.” She was so worried that she waited half an hour and then, in trepidation, rang him. “Are you alright?” “Yes why?” His voice sounded sleepy. “Y

A laugh is as good as a tonic

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I have had an email from the Government. People who have been shielding may be eligible for some vitamins. It is vitamin D that we all make in our skin when we are in the sunshine. Those of us who have been indoors, more than usual, will have made less of the vitamin because we have not been exposed to much sun. Apparently, I will be informed about it all again in January. It seems like a good idea because, even if I go out in the garden today, the winter sun is not strong enough. So, I have just added the tablets to my on-line grocery order. They are not expensive and for me, it’s not worth waiting for the machinery of government to decide. In any case, I expect they are busy with other things. The birds are busy with other things too, from October to March when we need Vitamin D, they need lots of food to see them through. Watching birds brings a sort of sunlight to my mind, especially when I see the startling black and white spotted woodpecker. He has a bright red cap and rump