Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rime, Hoarfrost and A Place Like Beguildy

Today was bloody cold. So what did I do? I found the highest place around here and stood there for three hours watching the hounds and horses exercise. Go figure. It was beautiful.

And I learned a new word. It's even in the Collins Concise English Dictionary, so it must be right. "Rime." Someone told me that's what they call the icy stuff that forms on branches, grass and even wire fences when it's foggy and then cold (basically freezing fog -- as opposed to freezing rain). Folks around where I stay call it hoarfrost. And I heard it's called boarfrost (is that really so, Mike?) in North Carolina. Turns out, at least from the dictionary definition, that what I saw today was definitely rime, not hoarfrost, at least the stuff I saw that was in the trees. Gorgeous. [Rime: "frost formed by the freezing of water droplets in fog onto solid objects."] [Hoarfrost: "a deposit of needle-like ice crystals formed on the ground by direct condensation at temperatures below freezing point."] See, they're different animals.

My friends back home like to see photos of some good old country pubs, or "locals" as some of the locals call them. Some of these places are HUNDREDS of years old - hard to imagine for Americans who think a building from 1892 is "old." But many of these pubs I get to visit while following the local hunts are actually old drovers' inns (that's the way they got livestock to market -- on foot -- back before the days of lorries and Land Rovers and stock boxes. Imagine that.) I could write a bunch about drovers inns, but I'll save that for another day.

The "field" (mounted hunt followers) pause to enjoy the rime (and possibly something refreshing from a hip flask).

One such pub is the Radnorshire Arms in Beguildy -- where I happened to land today. As I already said it was COLD and another local hunt I follow opted not to hound exercise at all today. But these Radnorshire folks are hardy and they decided a little cold and rime wouldn't stop them from keeping the horses and hounds fit. It was a bit tricky for the horses, though...the ground in the tracks was frozen and slippery. I think everyone got back safely -- at least I hope so.

When I finally made my way back down the treacherous track to the little village that is Beguildy (you gotta love a place by that name!), I stopped in at the Radnorshire Arms, as is my tradition, for a bowl of vegetable soup with roll and butter and it was yummy. There were a few locals hanging about there chatting at the bar and the folks from the hunt dribbled in to defrost and enjoy some soup.
If you haven't been to Beguildy, do stop and have a cold one and hot bowl of soup in one of those cushy armchairs by the woodstove and tell Peter I said howdy! It's a lovely place.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Lights, Mom and Stuff

Today I was supposed to go to a pheasant shoot being held by some local farmers. They asked me to come along and photograph them with their spaniels. I thought I'd get some photos of pheasants when they fly up, roused by the "beaters". But this was not to be. I awoke to a valley coated with frost and filled with dense fog. The day didn't really improve so around noon I decided to go Christmas shopping instead.

Do towns in America still decorate for Christmas? I remember as a child all the decorations the towns put up on lampposts or on wires suspended above the streets - big colored light bulbs and tinselly things like candy canes and snowmen. Is that still done? Well, it is over here. Hereford today was filled with such things and many of the little border villages (border of Wales-England) also have fairly elaborate Christmas decorations.

(Welsh Mountain Ram)

Of course Christmas in Wales, at least on the border where I stay, is pretty much like it is over in America. Since I live out in the country there's not a lot of caroling going on, and most of the farm folks are pretty busy just keeping their livestock fed and keeping their water thawed; they don't have a lot of time to go out singing and carousing.

(Rush Hour on My Lane)

I remember in my hometown (Binghamton New York) there was a peanut shop downtown and I often walked the three miles downtown to save bus fare and because I just loved to walk. There were quite a lot of good stores there in those days (before malls and chain stores came along and wiped out the downtowns of America). But that peanut shop! They had all kinds of nuts and it's quite possible that they weren't as good as they smelled! But I always bought my dad a gigantic 5 pound bag of freshly roasted peanuts in the shell and he loved those things. It's not like you could disguise what they were (or hide the smell) but that's one present he no doubt loved. Right by the peanut shop was a place called Home Dairy and they sold half moon cookies. Now those cookies were about 4 or 5 inches across. You could either get vanilla ones or chocolate ones - that's a no-brainer, or course I wanted the chocolate. They were frosted half vanilla icing and half chocolate, a nice rich chocolate. know since they went out of business I've never found anyone who makes half moon cookies like that. I did see some in Zabar's on Broadway in New York (a great deli to be sure) but they're always the vanilla dough. They need to be chocolate!

My mom used to knock herself out decorating the house for Christmas (you all know moms like that, right?) Seems like she put tinsel EVERYWHERE. Mom, like so many moms in the world, was totally other-oriented. She worked tirelessly to take care of everyone and make others happy and always seemed to forget to take the time to do things for herself. It's who she was. Sadly, my last Christmas with her was in 1983...she died at age 58 less than a year later. Luckily I got to spend a bunch of time with her throughout my life and most of the good things I know are things I learned from her. Our last Christmas we stayed up nearly all night long finishing up a spectacular wooden dollhouse she made for my two nieces. Somehow even then she knew that she wouldn't be around when the next Christmas rolled around. Funny the things you do when you step out of the ordinary and, say, stay up all night on Christmas Eve. We shared some wonderful moments together and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

No doubt the world is a better place because of all the love shared by moms and other good folks, this time of the year and always. (and sorry my photos have nothing to do with the text).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Uncle Pip and the Aga

My friend Judie in Pennsylvania is so good about keeping in touch with me. And she asked if I'd send a photo of Uncle Pip (not my uncle, but the elder person on this farm) who lives over in the old farmhouse (not sure how old it is but parts of the house are hundreds of years old) sitting in the kitchen by the Aga.

Now some of you may not know what an Aga is. I sure didn't when I arrived on the scene. It's a big cookstove, basically, cast iron with an enamel coating. There's a big place on the left side where you put in big chunks of wood and/or big chunks of coal and there's a warming oven on the right side and either 2 or 4 burners on the top. Those burners are hot, hot, hot and it doesn't take any time to boil a huge kettle of water. Most of my friends "keep the kettle on" most of the time just in case someone stops by.

Anyway this Aga has seen much better days (like so many of those in the the old farmhouses around here) but it still pumps out the heat. Because Pip can't get around very well anymore -- he uses a walker (or a "frame" as they say here) the old Aga was converted to burn oil instead of wood and coal. But if I had an Aga it would be wood/coal...they provide the sweetest heat on a cold old day like today.

I was telling Judie about Pip spending a lot of his time in the low-ceilinged kitchen cuddled up close to the old Aga and she asked for a photo, so this morning, a day with a hard hard frost, I walked over and snapped this photo of Pip by his Aga. Enjoy!

Lots of people around here have a Rayburn instead of an Aga; that's just a different brand with slightly different features. Me? I'd have an Aga any day.

Now this makes me think of Christmas at grandma's farm in upstate New York, not too far from Oswego. We couldn't visit her farm very often in the winter but we always tried to get there for Christmas. She lived on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and was subject to the Lake Effect Snowstorms back in those days. You'll think I'm incorrect to capitalize Lake Effect Snowstorm, I know, but if you've ever experienced one then you, like me, would capitalize that term. Yikes! In fact just last winter folks up that way got something like 10 feet of snow in just a couple of days. It doesn't seem possible (and it ISN'T possible most places) but all the right (or wrong) things come together there now and then...

Grandma used to have a big old cast iron cookstove. It wasn't painted with pretty enamel and though it probably had a "name" on it somewhere I wasn't really at the age to notice. But what I did notice was the great heat that came out of that thing (that and the woodstove in the dining room) and the incredible food that she served up, all cooked in that tempermental cookstove. Now I wouldn't have much of a clue how to, say, bake a cake in an Aga. You can't turn the heat to 350 and wait ten minutes. Oh no. You have to be a COOK when you use one of those. That and know what a pinch and a dab mean when it comes to measurements. I'm quite sure grandma never followed a recipe, even with her baked goods -- she went by feel, kind of like the great musicians I know who serve up some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard, but can't read a note. That old cast iron stove is long long gone and sadly so is grandma, though she lived to be not far off 100. I should be so lucky.
This morning was quite frosty and this is a damp sort of place so we often have lovely frosts in the's a couple more photos I snapped on the way back from taking Pip to the "day center" (Senior Citizen center) for their annual Christmas party. I was going to get out and take quite a lot of photos, but ran into a local farmer who wouldn't HEAR of me going on down the road until I'd come into his farmhouse and had a cup of tea with he, his lovely young wife and their two adorable toddlers. You can bet this is a friendly place where I've landed, and it's the kind of place where you do take time to share a cup of tea and sit around someone's warm hearth for a few minutes just whenever you can.
Tomorrow I've been invited to photograph a local pheasant shoot...if it's a pretty day I'll just have to go and see all those spaniels and retrievers in action.