So is 2019 the year when, finally, I get fit and healthy? Every year I aim to be this magical fit woman, filled with energy, but the efforts of becoming this person is just too much for lazy me. Sure, I can trek up mountains but walking up those steep hills is tiring indeed. How wonderful to feel I could run up them instead of panting and puffing, in some discomfort, as I do presently.
Last year I set myself a fundraising swimming challenge (eight miles in four months) with proceeds going towards Butterfly Conservation and The Donkey Sanctuary. This was from February to May. I decided I still liked swimming but not that particular pool (it was too busy). I also walked 10,000 steps a day for a fortnight for The Big Issue Foundation, a homeless charity, in March.
And so when it came to Scafell Pike in April, it felt easier than I expected.
So challenges help me to keep motivated and so I have devised new ones for 2019, to be spaced out over the year so I always have something to aim for.
1. I signed up for RED January. It is a challenge, created by mental health charity Mind, to help people support their mental wellbeing through exercise. It’s also about raising awareness of mental health issues. R. E. D actually stands for Run Every Day, but thankfully this is not essential (I’m not keen on running!) It’s more about getting active every day in some way. I’m aiming to walk more, at lunchtimes or to work.
My godchildren came to visit recently, aged two, four and eight years old. The first thing they wanted to see at Cosy Cottage? The residents of course!
The zebra danios were nonchalant as always, swimming in their water world, only paying attention when Honey, Noah and Wilfred fed them.
Although the guinea pigs and hens were a little startled at first, hearing the sound of loud young voices and the pattering of little feet, they became fond of them over the weekend.
Especially when it meant more treats!
Loco and Blaze met the youngsters and enjoyed being stroked, even Loco who sometimes makes a big fuss about being handled (we don’t eat guinea pigs here, Loco, you’re quite safe!). He is always happy to beg for parsley though!
There was much hilarity when Blaze pooed on Noah (big sister Honey couldn’t stop laughing!)
Loco then decided to do the same to Honey.
Guinea pigs, so polite in company!
Noah helped me clean out the chicken coop, doing a much thorough job than I usually do!
They helped with giving the chickens corn. Unfortunately the hens then thought it amusing to lead me – and the children – a merry dance and not head into the coop when it was time to go in.
I was expecting the hens to follow me in (bribed by corn, no less) straight into the coop, but no. They thought it would be a laugh to run around while me and the youngsters tried to herd them in.
Have you heard the phrase, ‘it was like herding cats’? I’m not saying it was as bad as that, but not far off either.
Never work with children or animals as they say in showbusiness!
It was a fun weekend for us all but I remain convinced the chickens were deliberately trying to show me up in front of the children and the five of them had a great laugh about it afterwards, especially Jemima!
Children and pets – top tips
1. Teach your child to be gentle around pets and other animals.
2. Pets are good for teaching responsibility. But don’t get a pet and assume your child will always look after it. They may get distracted with other interests as they get older. Make sure you want the pet too and are happy to look after it, if your child loses interest.
3. Be logical when choosing a pet. It’s better to research and consider how much time, space, attention etc you can give a pet than get one on a whim and give it away the next month. As they say, a pet is for life, not just for Christmas. 🐈🐕🐹
The Christmas tree is up, but something is missing. There are no gifts under it, and I need your help to put that right.
For this year’s Christmas charity appeal, I’m asking you again to help me raise some money for The Dogs Trust.
The Dogs Trust, formerly known as the National Canine Defence League, is an animal welfare charity and humane society in the United Kingdom which specialises in the well-being of dogs. Click here to go to their website.
Want to get involved? Here’s what you need to do.
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If you’re an author, you’re also welcome to leave a link to any books you have published. So, for example…
Poor Jemima! All summer she had the broody affliction which meant she didn’t want to leave her nest box in case her invisible (actually non-existent) eggs hatched. And when she finally snapped out of that, she started losing her feathers and became bedraggled and tatty looking. A poor specimen of her former, proud, snow-white plumage-covered glory.
And then Florence started copying off her, losing her thick, soft plumage and becoming scrawny in appearance.
(If you remember, Florence copied Jemima when she started brooding in the summer too. Is Jemima Florence’s role model?)
But panic not. It’s all part of the normal annual moulting process.
It’s in late summer/early autumn when birds begin to shed their feathers and grow new ones. Dottie went through her moult earlier this year, in September. Jemima and Florence are shedding their feathers in November. I don’t know when Mabel and Ava will go through the process for their first time.
For all hens, no eggs (or certainly very few) will be laid during this time – even from good layers such as hybrids.
The advice for hen keepers is to make sure they have plenty of food as they will need good nutrition and protein to enable them to grow new feathers for the cold months ahead.
I pour a little apple cider vinegar into their water as a pick-me-up tonic as I saw it suggested in a book.
Thankfully, nature has kindly given hens a helping hand during this process – the feathers are replaced slowly and this means chickens won’t lose too many feathers at once. A handy thing as it means they will still be able to fly out of danger (unless they’re a bantam, in which case it might be more a case of run out of danger!)
Facts of the Day
1. Young birds moult twice during their first six months of life.
2. A partial moult sometimes also occurs in the early part of the year, often just affecting the neck.
3. A young hen will take around 6 weeks to finish the process, it may be double that for older birds.
From Choosing & Raising Chickens, Jeremy Hobs on & Celia Lewis
Have you heard of Alexander Von Humboldt? I hadn’t until I read Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Homboldt, The Lost Hero of Science. Long subtitle aside, the biography opened my eyes to this scientist who really was born before his time.
How did I never hear of him despite all the places, plants and animals named after him – the Humboldt Glacier, Humboldt penguin, Humboldt squid, Humboldt Current…?
Or the fact that he influenced notable scientists and thinkers of the day including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir…?
Or that his many travels – including climbing Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador – experiments, learning, studying and immense memory brought so much information about the environment to us.
Or his view of nature, combining poetry and emotion with science, focused on the interconnectedness of the world.
His vision was called Naturgemalde, a ‘painting of nature’, which illustrates nature as being interconnected. When Humboldt learnt a new fact – and he discovered many during his lifetime – he connected it with other aspects of the natural world.
”Individual phenomena were only important ‘in their relation to the whole” for Humboldt.
Temperature, climate, humidity, atmosphere, animals, plants… instead of focusing on one topic, Humboldt would look at them all. Instead of studying one mountain and that’s it, Humboldt would link any information gained to other mountains across the world. His interdisciplinary scientific logic partnered with an artistic, poetical view of nature, resulting in engravings and artwork to accompany scientific findings.
Born in 1769 into a wealthy Prussian family, he lived at a fascinating time in history, of revolutions, war and turmoil. He met most of the most famous people of the time, such as Simon Bolivar and American presidents, and travelled extensively to Russia, South America, Europe and the US. He also managed to fit in writing several influential books.
Despite all this, what I found most impressive about this German scientist was his insight into the ecosystem and how humans were affecting it.
Wulf writes: ‘Humboldt was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate: the trees’ ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect…He also talked about the impact of trees on the climate through their release of oxygen’.
‘The effects of the human species’intervention were already ‘incalculable’ and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world so ‘brutally”.
As Wulf says later on, ‘Humboldt’s views sound alarmingly prophetic’.
A man ahead of his time indeed.
The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf
Family dogs Teddy and Molly are regular visitors to Cosy Cottage and always have a lot to talk about. They were recently interviewed by excellent K9 interviewer and blogger Doodlepip and here’s what they had to say for themselves! 🐶🐶 Doodlepip is also looking for other dog interviewees so if you know of any who would like to take part, here’s the link…
I hadn’t done any yoga for a few years. I sprained my ankle two weeks prior. My fitness levels had dropped alarmingly (and because of said ankle, I couldn’t get back to fitness again) and I was going on my own for an activity weekend with a group of people who I had never met before.
Hmmm, was this Yoga-hiking weekend a good idea?
Originally, I had the idea of walking up Ben Nevis in September this year, this was to mark a ‘special’ birthday, but I did Scafell Pike instead and, through one reason or another, Ben Nevis fell through. But I still wanted a fitness challenge to aim for and I came across Yoga Hikes.
I enjoy hiking and keep meaning to go back to yoga so this seemed like ideal motivation and the fact I would be staying at Victoria ‘opium poet’ Thomas De Quincey’s 1700s cottage, overlooking Rydal Water, a heavenly place if ever there was one… Yes, I decided, four months beforehand, I would go for it.
The cottage and its location was as old, cosy and idyllic as I hoped for. A main road separated the cottage from the Lake, but otherwise, it was perfectly located, half way between Ambleside and Grasmere.
My single bedroom was snug, the floor a little creaky but that’s what you would expect from a historic building.
Bedroom at Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage
Bedroom at Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage
When I first arrived, I had a moment of panic thinking I was the only one arriving on my own, especially as it sounded as if most people had come with others. Would I be seen as ‘Miss No-Mates’ (high school emotions coming to the fore!)?
But this feeling of insecurity was quickly allayed when the guests started arriving.
Four of us were on our own. The others had come with friends, family or a partner. In any case, it didn’t matter, no one was cliquey and the general friendliness meant there was always someone to chat to on walks.
Guests started arriving from 4pm onwards and we enjoyed tea and homemade cake in the sitting room. (This was a healthy balanced yoga break, lots of healthy activities but cake was definitely allowed, and so it should be!)
Yoga was on at 6pm in the evenings. We had five sessions altogether, two in the mornings at 7.30am (such a healthy start to the day made me feel very good!), one on the evening we arrived and two after our walks. There were breathing techniques and physical yoga, sometimes using props.
Despite my sprained ankle (which was nearly better at this point), the yoga techniques were flexible enough that there was a posture for all abilities. Sun salutation, cat, cow… We could go as far as we could. Yen, the yoga teacher, was sensitive to guests and didn’t push anyone beyond their limits.
All food was vegetarian/vegan. One evening there was a vegetarian buffet of peppers, falafel, pitta bread, hummus and so on. The second meal was stuffed mushroom. We were pleased that dessert was still on the menu on this yoga retreat! Breakfast, which was straight after yoga, was a choice of cereal or porridge, toast, egg, beans. On the Sunday we had the option of an enjoyable veggie burger with our breakfast.
Our walk on Saturday took us from the cottage to Easedale Tarn via Loughrigg Terrace and Grasmere. We hiked upwards beside a tumbling stream to our breathtaking spot for lunch (which was provided by Yoga Hikes), Easedale Tarn.
Our 10-mile (or so) ramble back took us to the gingerbread shop in Grasmere (established in the 1600s) where we had a 15-minute stop in case anyone wanted to buy the famous gingerbread. Also on the way was poet William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage.
Sunday’s walk took us to Loughrigg Tarn. Another moderate but hilly walk of about 10 miles. This time we went the other direction away from Grasmere. Our picnic break was again at a picturesque area, this time Loughrigg Tarn.
Our weekend was so packed with walks and yoga that there wasn’t much spare time, but for a couple of hours after Saturday’s walk, we were left to our own devices. I had a rest in my room, reading a book I had brought, but some people took advantage of the hot tub available.
There was a variety of abilities. One lady found the first walk to Easedale Tarn difficult and the next day went on a more gentle stroll to Ambleside with another guest who also opted out because of tiredness.
If anyone found the yoga or walks too difficult, there was the opt-out option and no one would judge you.
By the time came to say our goodbyes, I found that I had really enjoyed the weekend, despite my initial misgivings about going on my own. Now all I have to do is start practising yoga again!
A few weeks ago, I visited Nottingham, a city connected with Robin Hood and his adversary, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Alas, the castle was closed for renovations until 2020 so the exterior wall was all I saw of the castle. 2020 is the year to go to Nottingham!
But I did meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men, larking about outside the ancient dwelling.
If you do venture to Nottingham, in the East Midlands of England, there is a hostelry that is, in my view, an absolute must for lovers of history, geology, atmosphere, nooks and crannies, intrigue and potential ghosts. This ancient inn is called Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and is actually set in the walls of the castle.
Many venues boast of ‘being the oldest pub’ or ‘most haunted’, but once I crossed the threshold of Ye Olde Trip, I felt both claims may well have an element of truth (if ghosts actually exist in the first place of course!)
Unlike today’s open plan pubs, which focuses more on convenience than atmosphere, this inn is full of nooks and crannies, one small, cosy room leading to another. Artefacts, such as swords, old photos and information was displayed on the ancient walls.
The roof above our heads.
Halloween was around the corner, so there was a spooky theme, admittedly, but the ‘Haunted Snug’ needed no eerie skeleton or witch embellishments. The info plaque explained how it was always warm, even though there were no radiators or other heating. (Usually I associate ghosts with a cold atmosphere, but perhaps this spook was a kindly soul who liked catering for guests). There was also a portrait of an old-fashioned lady, whose eyes (according to the information board) followed you around. It’s a funny trick of the mind, but it really did seem to be the case.
After going to this room, I visited the courtyard toilet and, filled with ghostly ideas, being in this space by myself started to give me the creeps! Once I washed my hands, I quickly walked back into the busier bar area!
Upstairs, there was a spooky looking model of a ship which I assumed was a deliberate Halloween display. I only found out the actual, grisly story behind it later when researching the pub’s background.
Here are five fascinating facts about The Olde Trip …
* It was build into the rocks that Nottingham Castle is built on.
* There is a network of sandstone caves beneath the building, it is thought that these were originally used as a brewery for the castle and dates from the construction of the castle (1068AD). Cellar tours are available.
* The Cursed Galleon, as photographed earlier, is a small wooden model of a ship – covered in grime and dirt – and resides in a glass container. On the Greene King website, it is claimed that people who have cleaned it over the years have met with a mysterious death and now landlords refuse to let anyone clean it. True story or urban legend?
*It is believed the inn was established in 1189. Richard the Lionheart became King in that year, which was also the year the Pope called for a Third Crusade to the Holy Land. (There is, unfortunately, no documented evidence of the date of the inn). A ‘Trip’ in the Middle Ages was actually a place to rest. Legend says the Crusaders would have stopped off at the inn for a rest and refreshments before their journey to Jerusalem.
*The oldest parts of the building were constructed in the 1650s.