In and out

The food scene here is wonderful but I haven’t found a ready supply of Mediterranean ingredients yet, beyond a jolly but little stand at the market. I wonder if Gaganis would like to open an outlet in Calderdale? I’m still munching through English cheeses, pork pies, kippers and other almost-forgotten delights. It has been pleasing to find lots of good butchers selling local meat but there’s only one ho-hum veggie stall. I asked around, when I first arrived, for directions to a wild blackthorn to make sloe gin; no use. Then, on Sunday, I found a young, lone tree right behind the barn with a few rapidly-drying sloes, so we may yet have sip of the good stuff at Christmas!

Today was a frustrating sort of day, with not much done but lots of let-downs culminating in an email announcing that the furniture has gone back to sea and won’t be here for Christmas. Some flooring for the shed got half-way up the road yesterday but turned back, so I had to track that down today; a firewood truck —same size—got up the hill but took paint off the house trying to squeeze through the gate; had the telephone line replaced, all the way from the canal, so now the internet is faster but they failed to reconnect the outside bell—another chase-up; rushed into Todmorden to register for health care but left my papers at home…. That sort of day.

Still, the peat that we ordered with the firewood is burning nicely with a wonderful aroma, reminding me that a small whisky cures all sorts of ills. Monica was here for dinner but has now driven over to Bacup to persuade brother Kevin not to throw his 16-year-old daughter out on the street. Molly may well be staying with us for a while, soon. I hope she likes sleeping with her Nanny, who is now threatened with being dumped in a home because she interfered with her husband’s cooking; we’d have her here, too, rather than see that happen. I wish we had the barn converted to accommodation already!

Bandit remains calm through all of this, still offering the distraction of a walk on the canal or a chase around the parlour.

Last Sunday, I walked the land with three leaders of Treesponsibility, the planting group. We’re the poster-image for their latest funding bid; if successful, we’ll see seedlings going into the hillside in February next year. They like that we’re keen, have a clear vision for the purposes of the plantings, and are looking to actively manage the woodland to produce materials for local crafts. I was stood up by the meadows expert but the micro-hydro-power guy turned up and is keen to help us get a grant if we can properly survey the flow from the various springs behind the farm. There are still about a dozen organisations and experts we need to advise us on how to bring forth our dreams and we’ll get through them in the months to come. Now it’s time to focus on a Christmas feast with no furniture.

Of course, I haven’t been able to wait for the ship to come in before getting the kitchen organised. I have a new Sabatier cook’s knife and a selection of Aga pans that stack while cooking in the oven. Some great meals and a few fine loaves have already emerged from my new cast-iron friend. Mind you, I have also learnt that it’s easy to forget a dish that’s in the oven to warm or slow-cook. The smells, even of carbonisation, go out through the flue so there have been a few interesting ‘dog-biscuit’ results. I must review the situation when the menu is agreed; any excuse for a new toy.

The sale of 107 completes this Friday and we’ve just had a statement from the conveyancer about how the funds fall. We now have the delight of arm-wrestling to decide how we’re going to make ends meet without any visible means of support. With luck, some of the options and ventures seem destined to bring in a small income that might mean the projects pay their way.

An option to accelerate the commissioning of extra accommodation may be to buy Warland Barn (behind us, see photo), instead of converting ours, and bringing it back into the farm group. The current owners are likely to sell up in the Spring because it’s getting too much for them to maintain. It has a granny-flat, behind, and would earn its keep from summer lettings. Higher up the hill, it has a wonderful view along the valley. Just hope our tree doesn’t fall on it!

Anyway, the glass, normally half-full, is now undeniably at low tide so I’m off to find the bottle.

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