Today we cycled the Plym Valley trail – now part of the larger Drake’s trail. It’s been some years since we did this, now wondering why it took us so long to go back. Such a lovely cycle, along the disused railway line. We started on Dartmoor,
Joined the cycle route, which took us through Shaugh Tunnel
shaugh tunnel

shaugh tunnel light

under several bridges, and through impressive cuttings
cutting and bridge

past abandoned platforms
and ruined cottages (nice place for a picnic lunch)
quarryman's cottages
and, best of all, over four viaducts….viaduct
… complete with amazing views
river view from the viaduct

We cycled under the dual carriageway and alongside the river on the Saltram Estate, and into Plymouth, a fairly gentle 8.75 miles, and it was lovely, and we are looking forward to doing it all over again.

slapton sands in the morning

It feels in a way as though summer is already drawing to a close, and so even more important to grab the sunny days. Himself woke me this morning announcing it was a lovely day and we should breakfast on the beach. I dragged myself out of bed muttering that the tide was wrong and our beach would be covered, but we could head to Slapton sands instead, and himself could also indulge in his summer hobby of fishing-not-catching. And so the rod was slung into the car and off we went.

And it was beautiful.

He fished:
col fishing slapton
We breakfasted:
hot choc marshmallows
yep that is hot chocolate and marshmallows and grated chocolate no less.

Then in a break from the normal routine, himself did some actual catching

And here it is, recorded for posterity, his first fish. A bigun. He asked me what he should do – this actual catching of fish being a novel thing, and I told him to cloche it, (I really should stop mixing up cosh and cloche… ) unhook it and bung his feathers back in the sea quick – as there were three of us and only one fish. This he dutifully did, and the landing of this fish was noticed as the beach filled suddenly with other hopefuls casting out, including a kayaker and a Labrador dog fetching sticks… I’m not convinced the dog owners were really helping…. Despite this, he still reeled in more, and for once returned home with our bounty, and had fresh mackerel for lunch.

Simple pleasures.

hope cove2

Lovely walk today around Hope Cove and up onto the headland of Bolt Tail
hope cove

We had just made it to the top and were looking over to Burgh Island and taking in all that sky and sea, almost all around us, when a pick-up truck rushed up the hill towards us, and a farmer leapt out and asked to borrow our phone to call for help, as the tractor we had passed earlier, strimming bracken, had caught fire. As she spoke to the emergency services we watched the smoke change from white to black and the tractor began its demise. Fortunately the driver was well clear.
tractor on fire!
Much excitement for our son, and we had to wait for the arrival of the fire service, who had to be brought in on the back of the pickup – no chance of an engine making it up there. We did eventually tear him away from the scene to enjoy the rest of the walk.

Tractor excitement aside, so glad we went here today – spectacular views, good exercise, and nice cafes in the village for lunch too.
bolt tail cove

pigs to pork

belly slices on the bone

Monday saw us loading the pigs and taking them on their final journey. The reality of their end is masked by some angst at this time. By this stage they are no longer cute piglets, but two hundred weight of young boar. And having boar weaners is a first for us, they matured at an alarming rate and we worried about the possibility of boar taint. So getting them booked in, then the stress of trying to persuade that much pig into the trailer.. then the unloading at the other end all adds up to angst. Actually they loaded easily, came out of the trailer easily, and didn’t miss their appointment….
Only after that do we miss them, and we do. But this is part of the deal.
Today the pigs came home again, as pork, and we spent the day cutting them into edible portions. The meat is free of taint, and not too fatty at all, probably the best pork we have raised to date.

We strayed from the basic cutting plan and cut the middles close to the eye of meat, leaving a bigger belly slab, which himself cut into belly slices, on the bone,for meaty rib eating.  Meanwhile I boned out the loins/racks and cut the meat into many many steaks, and we cut a small joint from the side runners / hock and hands from under the spare ribs, which just seemed too lean and lovely to cut up for mincing. So now we have an abundance of pork steaks, roasting joints, tenderloin, trotters, ribs/belly slices, and mince.

Totally shattering day, but rounded off nicely with a trip into town; we sat outside under the canopy of a riverside bistro, a small group turned up and started playing swing and with pint in hand and the rain teaming down on the canvas,  it gave us that camping/festival feeling.

ducklings settled in the shade
It has been a long, very hot mixed bag of a day, but a good one.  Himself woke me at a time I thought was only reached by staying up late, this morning – I may have mentioned I am a night owl, these early hours really ought to be banned. Himself is more an early riser, and, during this dry spell,  has taken to watering the garden in the morning (and he doesn’t expect me to – for which I am very grateful!), the theory being that the water doesn’t encourage the slugs out as it would at night.  That and there never seems to be enough time to water in the evening AND do anything vaguely entertaining/social.

So anyway, after the watering moment, and the making me get up at daft o’clock (I did ask him to) off we went to market, where we magically changed some pullets into some ducklings.  It is the rule of smallholders that generally you should leave a livestock auction with more birds than you brought.  Fortunately it was our intention to sell some chickens and buy some ducklings, and I vaguely remember explaining to himself that if we were going to have some, we might as well get a few… and …well my hand went up a few times and we have nine new ducklings.  It was very hot, so I gave them water before we left, and when at home  we settled them in the pen they were delighted at the mini pools and set about playing, washing and generally getting very wet.   I admit we spent a fair bit of time watching them too.  We shall set up the big paddling pool tomorrow, which will delight them no end.
nine ducks nine
The rest of the day was spent on general chores, though very slowly as it was so very hot and humid. Early evening we went out for a short test cycle as finally, after some years, have retrieved our bikes from the barn we had stored them in,given them a service (ohh gears not rusted together? there’s posh!) . It was a relief to discover that yes, it was like riding a bike, and it all came back really quickly, and we are all fired up about cycling again, although maybe on some nice cycle-paths to start with…
Then, finally, we nipped out for an evening swim in the sea, given that sea temperatures are high at the moment, and although there was some shrieking on getting in the water (from himself obviously), it was just lovely.


comma 1

The garden and lanes seem to be constantly bouncing with butterflies now,

And we have clouds of ringlets – they may be brown, but lovely anyway.


even the whites are pretty close up (and if you are not growing any brassicas this year!)
small white

As well as the comma, ringlet and small white shown here, we have also recently seen  fritillaries, gatekeepers,small tortoiseshells and red admirals. I expect to see plenty more yet, nothing startlingly rare, but still a nice range. And today I removed a female emperor dragonfly from the growers pen.  No mistaking it with the bright green head and massive size – nearly 8cm long – I didn’t photograph it as it was trying to kill itself beating pathetically against the roof netting, all  the while young cockerels whose job it is is to fatten up eyeing this tasty snack.  The wings were surprisingly hard to the touch – I know as I had to help it out – the open door being way too tricky…  How it got in, or why, I cannot imagine.

Not surprising we have plenty of small tortoiseshell, red admiral and comma butterflies as all depend on nettles to eat as caterpillars,


I believe these are small tortoishell, you have to wonder at them strolling casually through the poisonous barbs of nettle, nevermind eating it too.
nettle eating caterpillar
If you like this sort of thing, take at look at Mandy’s page, she has some fabulous pictures, particularly of swallowtails at every stage.

I like taking time out to photograph the butterflies, and we have take great care (ok neglect)  let a hedge become overgrown with bramble – popular with swarms of butterflies, bees and other critters – and it is a win win, as I get to enjoy the butterflies whilst they pollinate the bramble, then I get to enjoy the blackberries.

new sheep

new sheep
We have way too much grass.  We meant to buy some more sheep at auction, but with the roof and kitchen renovations and general life stuff getting in the way, we sort of missed our moment,  and when we finally got our act together and went to the market, we saw some nice looking  ewes with lambs, only they were still heavy with wool, and ours had been sheared.  It would have been a pain to organise shearing again, and add to the expense.

Whilst I was looking at the lambs a nice lady came over to us and chatted to us.  Turns out they were her sheep.  And furthermore she keeps her sheep on our neighbour’s field.  We exchanged numbers, has a good sheep related chat and now her sheep have been sheared and we have bought a ewe and her lambs.

The ewe is a little unsure, but regards humans coming into the field as a potentially good thing. Hopefully we can win her over.  She has light grey wool, and it will be interesting to see how that grows out.

So we now need to think of some names – F for this year – we are still only beginners, our neighbour is on her second time through the alphabet.


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