Where have all the flours gone?

I have made Shrewsbury biscuits with the last of my plain flour
Where has all the flour gone? Who has it all gone to? I have been adding flour to my supermarket order for weeks now, but each time it is not available. Both plain and self-raising seem to be in short supply. I imagine that everyone has been baking, at home in lockdown – it’s something interesting to do with the children and a way to make use of our extra time. But, in fact, there is not a shortage of flour. It is the size of the bags that’s the problem. It’s available in bulky, retail sized sacks to supply the catering industry, which has not been using much flour recently. We don’t want the big sacks in our kitchens, we need the small bag that we are used to.We have also been used to going into Wales and visiting the garden centres. But we are no longer allowed to do this, as the rules there are different. In any case, I am still in lockdown so cannot go anywhere.My idea was to have plants delivered. I rang the garde…

Staying hopeful in lockdown

I have a library book that should have been returned eight weeks ago. I normally download my books but this time I didn’t. It is called ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou. I think I do too. We must do what we can to stay happy.But will the library be happy with me? What is the fine for all those weeks, I wonder? Should I just post it through their letter box and make a run for it? No, some sort of amnesty will apply. Hopefully, things will work out.Another thing that makes me hopeful is that the spotted flycatcher has arrived again in our garden. The last of our migrant birds is on the RSPB red list, there is cause for concern about how few there are left. Their numbers have dropped over 90% in recent years. We don’t know why, but if you see this little bird in your garden you may have the right conditions with enough food, lookout perches and perhaps suitable nest sites.The spotted flycatcher is a brown bird, like a house sparrow but a little larger. It looks unremarka…

Triumphs in lockdown

A wren has built on a swallows' nest
The cow shed door is open waiting for the swallows which will be nesting any time soon. We close the door in the winter to keep the bad weather out, as we store our chicken food in there. Every year, about this time, we wedge the door open in the hope that the swallows will nest here, and sometimes they do. At the end of the season their old cup nest, made of mud, is left behind on a little shelf high up in the apex. It tumbles with old tins and jars amongst the cobwebs. I went to have a look yesterday and found that there is a problem. Whilst the door was closed, another bird has got there first. He must have squeezed in through the gap at the top and used the old swallows’ nest. Instead of the little cup waiting for its owners’ mud repairs there is now a domed lid on the structure. There is a little hole just above the swallows’ part and I can see green moss inside. It looks like a tea cosy waiting for the tea pot. It is a wren’s nest. The wre…

Joy in small things

Our new potatoes are ready. It sounds impressive but I must tell you that they were grown in the greenhouse, so that is cheating a little. They were planted just before we went into isolation. My idea was that we could be self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit for months.

These days our meals have become especially important events, they punctuate our day and give us a structure. So, what a thrill it is to be eating our own potatoes, at last. They are about the size of golf balls; we dig three plants as a meal for two.

When they have been dug up tradition says that you must run with them to the kitchen for maximum freshness. After a light wash, they should not be cut but go whole into the pan of boiling water.

Served with a knob of butter, they are sweet and soft and silky on the tongue. Almost like fruit, I serve them for lunch in round white bowls with fresh green herbs. They are so delicious that my mouth waters when I see the plants in the greenhouse, where all our other vegetab…

Time to watch the birds

We have a corvid (note the ‘r’) nesting in the woodland. It is one of the crow family and not normally welcome here. But I must admit that being in isolation, with more time to look, has made me pay more attention to this big carrion crow and his identical mate.
I have been sitting out with my binoculars looking at the remote nest. The birds are not rooks who nest together in rookeries. Also, I can see that they have no bare patch on their faces and no ‘baggy breeches’ which rooks have. They are plain crows.

The nest is high up in the scots pine tree, at a fork in the branches. I can see the female brooding her eggs from her tree-top view. She is on the summit of the world and at the top of her food chain. There is no danger for her, but she and her mate are a danger to others.

They time their nesting carefully. I saw them both building, using the remains of an old magpie’s nest. I watched as they broke twigs off the silver birch trees to build up a safe platform.
She will have about f…

Nature marches on regardless

I have bought an exercise bike. I am not really the type but it is important to keep up physical strength in our isolation.

Normally, I have been cycling down the lane. But our lane has become crowded with joggers, walkers, and other cyclists. It is narrow and so I decided not to risk it anymore and I bought my exercise bike.

It came in a flat pack but was soon assembled and looking like the real thing. It’s in our garage and so I go there each day. I sit amongst the assortment of garden machinery, the freezer, and the tumble drier, but my mind is on other things. I leave the door open and I can look out of the window as I pedal away on my imaginary journeys. In my mind I cycle down the almost deserted A5, to Shrewsbury and whizz through the empty streets where I used to shop. Ludlow is a bit far at the moment, even for my imagination.

Through the open garage door, I can see Oak Meadow and the mallard ducks near the pond. They are sure to be nesting there, as they do each year. There…

isolation has its rewards

I have a supermarket delivery slot! Not that unusual normally, but today in these strange times it is exciting news. I have told all my friends around Shropshire and beyond.

We have an old pasting table at the gate and the delivery man puts the shopping on there. I open the bedroom window and we communicate about substitutions. My order has become a big event, now I am in isolation. These slots, as you will know, are as rare as hens’ teeth, nowadays.

Hens really do have teeth when they are ready to hatch out of the egg. The developing chick grows a temporary protuberance on the top of its beak, which it uses to break the eggshell. I recall seeing these ‘teeth’ on day old chicks, when I was a little girl living on a farm. The chicks were delivered by rail in hexagonal cardboard boxes. I remember taking the lid off the boxes and seeing these yellow fluffy creatures with pink legs and beaks with the little protuberances that had helped them hatch.

The baby blackbirds in my bay tree have…