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Herself's Blog

 My last blog did not do paragraphs. I moved from Google Chrome to Firefox, hope this is more readable as I do not half ramble on...firts publishing try showed a lot of rubbish after this bit.... Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

In my last blog I thought life was in a lull before next storm. It was, literally. Two days ago Hisself measured 52 centimetres of snow, but more has arrived on both days since.

 

It was last years snow that destroyed shed roofs. Old steading is now demolished and power permanently re-routed underground. Water however is a different matter. New water tank wobbles on few pallets under a bit of remaining roof and all water pipes are laid bare on the ground. All naturally waiting for the new shed to house them all plus some (a lot) of insulation.

 

We have had snow since 20th December. On cold nights water freezes despite my carefully timed dishwasher / two washing machine combination that is designed to keep the water flowing all through the night. Usually it is just the pipe over ground that I easily defrosted in kitchen in couple of hours but once or twice we have now lost the borehole pump too. To be honest there is no casual once or twice about it -  first time we were heading towards Christmas eve, nine people on the premises, when mother nature gave us a surprise afternoon thaw. Second time was two days ago, it was -18°C.

 

I do not like the fact we cannot wash, but I ignore it. I despise washing dishes in a bucketful of water and drying them by hand, but I suppose that will build my character. I really, really hate carrying water for the toilets from the burn. Not so much the steep climb down and up the banking but hauling the full buckets over the frozen gate. That is a real killer.

 

Every time I have made Hisself leave the premises for light commercial entertainment (read sales) things have gone from bad to worse. First time No1 one son went down with  sickness and diarrhoea, spending the time in the bathroom, leaving water pipes in the kitchen and livestock fending for themselves.

 

Second time he returned to the mystery of self emptying header tank. Leak was suspected but No2 daughter refused to investigate. Apparently she did not know what a leak looked like, and anyway it was too cold to go out in her flip-flops. She had a hard two days shopping in Edinburgh where her fancy shoes ate holes into her heels, hence the need for footwear that was not touching the healing skin. Nevertheless a leak was finally found in the pipes leading to cattle shed, which naturally cannot be replaced before the snow goes away.

 

Yesterday Hisself returned to a road blocked by a feeder trailer still attached to the forklift. Freezing red diesel was diagnosed. No3 son had never seen any before and was not quite sure what to do. As long as he does not do what his father says we will be fine. At one point the forklift needed a jump start and in his big hurry Hisself parked the tractor to a rather unfortunate angle on a slope where it gently slid through the (naturally brand new) fence. The neighbours had a good laugh and sons learned a lot, or so I hope.

 

I think it will be June before this has disappeared from Hisself’s memory and I can get him to leave the farm again. Which is a great pity, as he is the ideal male to go to shopping with. Hisself makes all the correct noises when I ask his opinion but has the wonderful ability to wander away with No5 for some quality father/daughter time when I want few minutes to concentrate on what is on offer and what we need. As long as he gets plenty of tea he never rushes me home till everything is done. Maybe he is getting grief on the farm front but it is top points from me!
Sitting here torn between the excitement of recognising Chinese characters and writing a blog post. Blog is winning. I have started beginners Mandarin in the Open University and it is taking every one of the few spare minutes I have. Just finding it slightly difficult to repeat the umpteenth time that “I am English”. I’m not!!!! Still, managing slightly better than the Irish in my group. For a day or so I was proud I could say to No5 that she is Chinese – then I came across this study that explained how damaging it was for intercountry adopted children to underline that they are different from people around them. So Sugelan (Scotland) it is from now on…. I wanted to nominate Hisself for the sexiest farmer competition. He is just not willing. Words like “consequences” and “retaliation” were mentioned and I really want a coffee bean grinder from Santa.......................................................................... In the house and on the farm we are nearing normality. Normal is usually disasters taking over our well laid plans, but for the time being everything is going smoothly (should I touch wood?). All furniture is where it should be and in a week or sometime in near future should finish the last painting jobs. The material from upstairs storage is slowly turning into new curtains and I may even manage to make some seasonal crafts come December. Do you feel the sense of calm and achievement? I did. Then Hisself and sons found this perfect farm on the market and they all wanted to move. Brilliant buy, good value for money, fantastic steading – no wonder, the house is less than perfect. No windows, no heating, rising damp, holes in the roof… Reason is slowly sinking in – it will be us oldies staying put and next generation getting farms to get started with. It may be November but I am so looking forward to Christmas. “The Beast” is in the freezer waiting for a piggy to join him. I have several new cook books lined up via my library van and in-laws coming for two weeks. This will be cooking indulgence extraordinaire! I love cooking, the family loves eating and when it all goes wrong the dog is happy to help. If everything else in life was so beautifully balanced!

As repair and rescue work continues in the house I have been allowed to overdose with my favourite activities. Laying laminate flooring and building kit furniture. I would go as far as say that my ideal two week holiday would be an empty house where I could floor to my hearts content for a week and then take a truckload sized delivery from IKEA for the second week's activities. Me, workbench, jigsaw and the drill....ahh, blisss!

Somewhere in between the jobs we dropped No1 son to University. He seems to have settled well but is visiting this weekend. Not to see us but to get his sleeping bag (for rough weekends) and kilt (for posher times). For obvious reasons I have decided that it may be better not to ask for further information. We miss him, especially No5, who calls every day just to say hello. That girl did make her claim when we were leaving his flat and saying goodbye on the pavement - slobbered big bro with large and very wet kisses in front of all the females who were moving in at the time. Do not think it did his street credit any harm on the long run.

We were in the unlucky corner of Scotland were floods swelled up the waterways and many people were washed out of their houses. Some farmers experienced the flood harvest too. Ready grain was washed down stream and flood waters brought some bales from upstream. The end result looked a lot like conventional harvest, sadly no grain made it to the shed, nor pennies to the pocket. The fields ended up soaked and although rest of the harvest was made in excellent conditions, dust flying behind the combines, the ground is rutted and there was more than one ready digger spotted following the combines round the field.

It has been the week that killed not only one but two laptops. No2 daughter over stretched her hard drive and it exploded like an overstuffed turkey, several new bits are coming from the USA and Hisself thinks he can fix it all. No3 son's laptop was more difficult - the blue screen of death itself. Hisself had the bright idea to call manufacturer's support line and to his great surprise Granny, with the laptop, had bought a business support cover. A courier will pick it up tomorrow and it will be returned in seven days either repaired or replaced by the latest model. Astonishing. We congratulated Granny who was totally unaware of what she had purchased at the time. Granny was so pleased with herself that she bought No4 daughter a laptop too.

Tonight for the first time for more weeks that I care to count all our floor boards are where they belong, firmly screwed down. Only two rooms need decorating and only office interior is spread over the hallway and up the stairs. Is it light I see in the end of the tunnel?

I am a crack map reader. Got us lost twice in twenty years. Once somewhere in Holland (still no idea where it was) and once circling Althorpe estate. I still insist that we could have visited but somehow Hisself thought that catching that ferry from Hull was more important.

Despite my nearly faultless track record Hisself bough himself a sat nav. First one was cheap and naturally did not work. Or more precisely, it took him and No1 son two miles from a farm sale and then went silent waking up five minutes later insisting that they took a short cut across a nearby forest. To my delight it was returned to the shop.

Should have known better, the all singing, all dancing, best that money can buy replacement was sneaked in a few days later. He got caught when I did the books in the turn of the month. My feelings were hurt at the time, but honestly, we have never had as much fun as we had this time round.

The beauty of sat nav it that it always takes you where you want to go. The route on the other hand bears no resemblance to either common sense or practicality. So, on our way to Norwich and Oxford we ended up seeing the full beauty of East Anglia, some amazing crops along single line roads and for unexplained reason many a beautiful church dotted around English countryside.

We got the best and the worst of service. Those horrid little roadside cafes that greeted us with a sign on the door "Toilets for paying customers only". It sort of says "Do not ask for anything extra" and when you have restricted diet eating only happens when people are willing to give us a helping hand.

On the other hand by turning away from such places we discovered the most amazing farm shops along the way. Look out for Abbey Park Farm Shop along the A17. The lady prepared us the most fabulous packed lunch with hot new potatoes from the coffee shop kitchen, freshly cut ham, local cheese, specially prepared salad and the sweetest raspberries for pudding.

You just know you are in the right place when requesting some ham the reply is "How thick you want me to cut the slices." I still dream about the gorgeous beetroot they had - too far to take them home, but they looked so perfectly tasty.

We spend some perfect summer days with our friends lazing along the waterways and playing with the children. The weather was unbelievable +26 degrees and wall to wall sunshine. The reasoning is to bring No5 and her pals together every year but at this stage we parents get so much more out of it.

We all bring out troubles and triumphs to each other and share a lot we would not tell to anyone else. Our children have common background and as all adopted children, despite how normal they appear, they have special needs. It is good to understand and to be understood. In the end of the day it is good to be home.

But we are still wondering - was it really a field of rhubarb somewhere north of Norwich?

If there is a groundhog day let's hope it is not today. What happened today began a while back, very innocently with a wood burning stove and a snowstorm. I think I mentioned our new wood burner and the mysterious smoke that appeared in No1 son's bedroom. Eventually the mystery was solved, our grand adviser had capped the wrong chimney..... Which left us with a problem solved and slightly smelly bedroom.

Arrive the June heatwave and what was a slight aroma became a full blown stink. The "grand changing of bedrooms" that was designed to happen after No1 son went to university became an non-scheduled holiday activity. I am not talking moving a few beds around. This time the plans involved building walls up back stair to create a 6th bedroom and removing last of the chipboard build-in horrors that were here when we moved in. Not to mention fresh paint on the walls and bringing skirtings and doors back to original wood.

It also involved boys sleeping in pink bedrooms, sawdust everywhere and frequent trips to the suppliers. While all this was going on inside, outside was in the grips of demolishing all snow damaged steading, creating new power access to house, renewing and replacing existing private water supply and generally digging up the yard. Sometimes I have access to the car and sometimes I do not. No3 son is in charge of the digger and negotiating with a 13-year-old can be a dodgy business at best.

By last night I was feeling rather good. Car was able to reach the garage once more and No5 daughter's bedroom had reached the stage where I asked Hisself to remove the radiator so I could do the little bits behind it. Got most of the job finished and felt rather happy. It is about time that No5 moves away from our bedroom to her own one next door. I no longer fear her falling down the stairs at night.

Just before six this morning No4 daughter walked in announcing that "it was raining in her bed". Hisself did a giant leap and right enough. Last night's radiator was still against the opposite wall and a faulty frost valve had opened itself during the night with the result that it was not only raining in No3's bed but the office ceiling was more like Niagara Falls than anything else.

Panic stations. No4 is a wonderful child who has her head screwed on the right way round. I iron in the office and first of all she rescued what was dry and hang the rest outside to drip. I washed eight loads the day before so we are not talking two jumpers and a pair of socks here. While Hisself climbed back into his bed for a nap and few cups of tea I frantically carried things out the best I could. Luckily we were in the half away from computer but I had 15 meters of shelving in my hands with the added pleasure of cold water running down my back. Not to mention the periodical explosions in the ceiling paper that brought small water bombs down when I least expected.

It all finally came to an end, about the time when No5 daughter wakes up. After giving a severe lecture to Hisself about going back to bed I listened and finally agreed. I was the best person to do the job. I knew where everything was and we did not loose anything related to work, nor anything with personal value. Losses that could have run to several thousands were reduced to a few jigsaw puzzles and half a dozen books that can be replaced for under £100.

Nevertheless I went to bed last night thinking that I had two floors to sort out in addition to No5's room. Tonight I have five rooms in pieces, entire contents of the office in the hallway, carpet on front lawn and dog watching rabbits from the comfort of an armchair on the front step. Nothing so bad that it could not get worse. I went to the raspberry bush to calm my nerves and while I was away No3 son had a little accident with the digger. Digger and son are fine but my garden wall has a gate size gap and I am sure I did not order one!!

"Never two without a third" said Hisself on his way out to mow arable silage. The mad grin he returned with at teatime should have been a warning. The mower conditioner unit snapped a bolt and broke the welds holding it on. There was an "attack of the gas" and we now have more scrap than the scrap man can carry away in a load. It will be Christmas before I have dug myself out of this hole.

Mad life it may be, but at least I am not bored.

Before I get to the subject at hand I better explain my long absence from blogging. It's my mum. She is now well into her 80's and in a desperate need of a new hip. So bad that she has been housebound since September. One sister lives close by and takes her shopping on weekly basis, another takes a day off for each trip to doctors or hospital. I felt I had to do something too and began a daily blog. She is in sheltered housing and the "communal" (she is the only one able to use it) computer is in the ground floor. It means a daily trip away from the flat. Keeping a blog going on daily basis is hard work and takes most of my free time. Especially as the whole house now gathers to the common room next door to hear our daily news. It is bad enough to have something for her but as it will be spread around the town in the bush radio I really must think before I type.

No1 (son) has been travelling around the countryside attending university open days. It has opened a new world to me. We send him on his own. Mainly because he wants to go alone and that serves my end as well. First and foremost we try and remember that he is choosing an university he is happy with. We like him to use public transport as that is the way he will be travelling when he visits home. Main difference being that then it will be peak time travelling in the crush of Xmas travellers or bank holiday makers. But at least he is familiar with the route, how long it takes and how boring it can be.

What has surprised him and us is the number of helicopters (= hovering parents) in open days. In one occasion he counted no less than 40 adults shepherding the 20 youngsters. He has noted that some universities design their open days to accommodate the parental desires rather than the needs of the future students.

How a single teenager gets treated tells a lot about the place. All the universities have is academic record and a name. Some want the young person for what they are and make the effort to treat the lone youngsters with the same courtesy and attention to detail that they give to parents. Other's want the student as the son or daughter of Mr and Mrs Suitable Family, not for their academic ability.

Very long time ago when I was leaving home I remember feeling that it was time for me to stop supporting my parent's guidelines and them to begin supporting my decisions instead. I grew up and they let me go. Just makes me wonder how these kids whose parents are wanting a slice of their future decision making and are unable to negotiate a day away from home are going to make the transition from home to student life. The parental involvement makes university choice based on how the family experienced the day. There is no possibility or opportunity for the prospective students to talk to each other. Depending on the uni the students will live the next three or four years together. Yet they go to fresher's week not knowing anyone from their open day.

On the other hand does that matter as long as mother is happy? My own helicoptering act? It is saved for No5 (daughter). She is two now and endless source of delight to us all. Quite how someone so small can have so much energy is a bit beyond me but I can just about keep up with her. Wish all the world could be made happy with a pair of new wellies and a large puddle.

I am the most organised person when it comes to Christmas. Took all presents to Finland in July and had British ones bought, parcelled and either ready for post or under the tree before December arrived and cards generally get sorted in October. Super efficiency - no. I know what happens in December......

Hisself decided to bring our loft insulation up to standard. Which is a good thing. In principle. He just had to do it in early December. This involved taking out all existing insulation as it could be recycled above his workshop. Great idea. However the loft hatch is in No3's [daughter] room and she is in the age of many little things when quantity comes over quality each time. I boxed every item in the room, nearly including the child, who was moved to the playroom to sleep for a few nights. She and the crud were allowed to return after she had cleaned each box into a large black bin liner.

My first worry was keeping No5 warm during those few nights when the house was without any insulation. I was right to worry, we had hard frost and snow, the house temperature dropping by hour. Last year I made her some sleeping bags that were getting too small now. For you unfamiliar with the item it is a  bag with arm and head holes and a zip to keep the baby in. She is now nearing two, I have no time to sew and shops here only offer smaller sizes so I had to shop on the internet. The market leader is grobag [note the missing w] and they make them up to 10 years old. Pricey items, so I did not want them too small opting to the 3-6 year size. He, he,he - they are ginormous. I will get four if not six years wear out of them!

Then came the night we lost No1 [son]. It was a beautiful starry night, temperature -5 degrees C. Around 7 pm he popped to back kitchen wearing a fleece and a body warmer. Around 8 pm we realised he was gone, searched the house, the outbuildings and Hisself had a run around the farm with the quad. No sign of him. Mobile out of range. Called the police - his bags are here, his passport is here, his knife is here.....Hisself went out looking, I went out looking and around 9.30 when I was returning to the house I heard the sound of pounding footsteps behind me. The son returned.

He was astonished to find out we were worried!!! It was a classic double album night in radio and to get some peace to listed he decided to go for a 16 mile run. Cross country of course as the ground was hard and the stars were bright. - Give me strength!!!

Two weeks of school left and each child has a party, except the youngest one, she has five. Parties do not include school plays and concerts, which we have a plenty too, not to mention the Christmas Ball for the two eldest. Hair dresser was booked in August, the ball gown is waiting and today we must sort the Highland dress for No1.

Are you still feeling that I should be able just about manage? I thought so too till we got the call from Germany on Friday saying that the wind turbine will be here next week......

As usual, slightly late, but still wondering about the USA election results. I have a vested interest as I have Aunt Arizona who is politically active and expects the world to follow her example. After a lifetime of republicanism she marvelled at the existence of Mrs. Clinton. We had a bet going. Hisself assured Aunt that no woman with ankles like Mrs. C would get to be a presidential candidate - Aunt Az said she would - and in the end I got something lovely delivered by airmail.

In the early days of the campaign Aunt Az felt that Clinton votes would go to McCain if she was not elected. Enter a college beauty queen [says Aunt Az - I have not checked] from Alaska and suddenly Obama had all the qualities an elderly republican lady could want: Good education, intelligence and name directly from the pages of Bible.

Many more people than usual voted. Apart from Aunt Az I follow a blog by a Finn living in USA. Devout Christian and republican she was shedding bitter tears unable to vote while my American pals here in the UK voted and had an Obama Mama -party too. The expat votes are a funny thing. According to European law my national election vote must go for my country of origin while in local elections I can vote wherever I live permanently.

So I have no say who goes to Westminster but I should be able to choose a candidate in Finland. The problem being that I lost contact with political reality there 20 years ago. In UK terms that would leave you lot thinking Maggie T policies and casting a vote accordingly. The fun side is that I can vote in all Scottish election. They are regional matters. Having a Scottish parliament was supposedly a regional matter and I will have a say when it comes to Scottish independence too!!!! SNP has kindly promised to let me keep voting in national matters when Scotland becomes independent. I do appreciate the gesture. Nice to think that Scotland accepts me as  one of its own. In British sense I have always felt the cold wind of us and them, me definitely being one of the latter.

We have a week free of any kind of work crew or specialist. I was getting a bit overwhelmed with the stress so Hisself took me out and began the restoration of my nicer personality with smoked salmon and chocolate. Not maybe the way you think. He got me a picnic lunch of rice cakes, cheap tub of salmon flakes and we shared 2l bottle of fizzy water. Followed by a large chocolate bar. As the weather was not too nice we enjoyed this treat in the supermarket car park. He can make me smile any day!

It has been a weekend of extra sleep, friends and books in front of the fire. Not for Hisself who is still drying grain but the girls and I needed a change from the mud. My newly re-installed fireplace in the office is working now. To begin with it was smiles all round but then the smoke began to gather next door. Chimney sweep came and murmured something about cold chimneys and still days and told us to try again. So I did this morning. Couple of hours later I remembered the smoke problem and rushed to the room next door to see if I had gassed No1 son by accident. It was a breezy day, the chimney was working as it should and one very angry young man wanted to know why I had woken him up before lunch??

This farm road to Hisself's wind site brings a wedding dress to my mind. All the support [tonnes of rock], extra frills and a bit of padding. Costs a fortune and is going to be used once. But it is fantastic for the buggy. I used to walk along the main road but now we can stay on the farm, No5 can get down and run at will and the dog has full freedom to roam too.

The road is not quite finished yet and it has been another long stretch of starting early and finishing late. No1 son was away the first week of October holidays with school, landed on Glasgow 1 am Monday morning, was at home 6 am and started on the vibrating roller at 7am. On Thursday he actually spoke the first time wanting to know "What day is it?". The road crew might go away at 5 pm but Hisself and sons have all the machinery to service, livestock to feed and on bad days some combining and drying to finish.

There has been plenty to do at home but both sons have taken on a neighbour's holding while the owners are away on holiday. The money has been good. No3 son has been taking things more quietly and helped at home in between biking to his second job. No1 has rushed up the road during his breaks to keep all balls in the air and work on the road running smoothly.

Hisself has made sure the boys has stopped around 7.30 pm. By 8 o'clock both have eaten, washed and fast asleep ready for the next day.

I have been busy too. Doing all the jobs that need doing but no-one else is there to do. Lot of it is paperwork. But I have laid my share of geogrid, wielded the axe for firewood and run the farm. The main aim at the moment is to be able to sit down for a cup of tea.

During all this mayhem I demanded that everyone got dressed up and we went for a family photograph. I am yet to figure out what possessed me to make this appointment for the least suitable time and how we got Hisself there in time. To my great surprise the results are excellent. Several pictures where we all look reasonable and one truly brilliant one. We all look happy, relaxed and comfortable together. Maybe that will happen in the real life too. One day, when all this panic is over.

It has been several busy weeks in our household. No time to get online let alone write something. I naturally blame Hisself but No5 is partially responsible. She is adorable but also busy and prone to climbing. Not the usual sort - she has it down to fine art and uses imaginative steps like full milk cartons from fridge, wash baskets, toy boxes and in absolute desperation an overturned dog bed will do.

On my toes with her but what can I say, her favourite word is "happy" and when I cook she gets her stuffed pig [soft toy], crams it into her play oven with some plastic potatoes and after all the effort makes me a cup of imaginary tea.

Tea and sympathy have both been what the doctor ordered. Hisself did volunteer us for the sheep tagging exercise that is going on at the moment. I tagged and tagged and when the day went on tagged a bit more but that time with No5 in my back. Maybe not surprisingly my hip protested. A wrong turn and I had a nerve firmly stuck inside my hip joint and boy, was it sore!!!! I used to do that while pregnant so from the archives out came the giant elastic band designed to keep bodyparts together. On the bright side I still fitted into the smaller version....

The medical advice is to do physio, eat painkillers and keep moving. I did do my exercises, had no option but keep moving but instead of painkillers opted for a hot bath and a quantity of spirits. That would had been my dad's advice and as he lived to see his 80th birthday I trusted him more than the doctor. And dad was right.

Hisself's diversification project has moved from the office out to the real world. First stage has been new farm roads in rain. The rain has nothing to do with the road project but has made my life a misery. To begin with I was using the grass field to bypass the drive. It was nice and dry. Then it rained and I began to skid across till my journey was more of a sideways crab crawl than anything else. Never got stuck nor did I hit a gate post, but I was getting miserable about it.

Should had counted my blessings instead. The next stage was leaving the car across the main road and walking few hundred meters of drive. Piece of cake! Well, not when you have a toddler, handbag, shopping bags, nappy bag and on a good day a buggy too and it is soggy mud up to buggie axle, climb over the freshly delivered rock pile and a jump over the open culvert. That is the way out, on return journey repeat with weeks shopping for seven. For ten days my dream has been to be clean while awake for at least two hours every day.

Today is the day when credit crunch got under my skin. I have enjoyed the strong £, weak $ relationship for a while now by buying directly from USA. With kids clothes it made unbeatable sense. Well, not longer. There will be no 60% off winter sale this year come Xmas time. So here I am, caked in mud and nowhere to shop!

We have had a spell of things breaking down. No, nothing to do with the farm. Hisself has one thing or another in pieces on a permanent basis. Things that I need have broken down.

First of all daughters were clearing up and my single cup coffee maker mysteriously disappeared while the rubbish bag had sharp glass pieces peeking through the plastic. I should use the correct expression but as I cannot spell cafetier[?] to save my life lets just call it a coffee maker. Without my lunchtime decaf I am just not the person I should be. No replacement available in the local shops.

Then our aged bus busted the exhaust. That should not be a crisis call but as the DHL twice delivered the part to wrong address insisting it was where it should be, the new employee in the sending end messed up a couple of tries and in the end the wrong one of four choices finally arrived. We ended up without family wheels for a good fortnight. I was not happy, the children were not happy and Hisself was beside himself. I kept borrowing his car and adjusting his seat to a comfortable position for me. Tut, tut, tut.

So yesterday morning No5 and I were off to get the exhaust fixed and to do the shopping. "I have seen him do one in 7 minutes," said Hisself. "Come back in 45 minutes," said the guy and finally an hour and 40 minutes later we were back on the road. Not to shop but back to home as No5 was wanting an early milk bottle. I was somewhat rattled by the morning experience and with my usual [tactful] way let Hisself know where he could insert his seven minute exhaust change and an extra hour entertaining No5 with handful of rubble and passing traffic.

My feelings were obviously clear as when I returned from shops a replacement coffee maker had been ordered on-line.

Meantime a massive office clearing and remodelling is in progress. Not that I particularly want to spent my evenings shifting through piles of paper mixed with school work, toys and games. Maybe more to do with the telly turning pink. It gave a wonderful glow to people but the outdoor scenes were not quite the same. It should be repairable, maybe, sometime next week, or two. In the meantime the kids PlayStation mini telly is giving us access to news but I must admit that it is not fun. My eyesight is so poor that I either sit on the sofa and listen or sit on the floor, see the picture and paralyze my rear.

Do any of you remember the rubber rings that ended in the hand cleaner? The tub is now nearing the end and I obviously did not manage to get every ring out at the time. During the passing weeks they have swollen huge, giving now a doughnut like appearance. Despite the promising looks the play value is poor as the rubber has become brittle and they break easily. On the other hand it has been a fascinating experiment giving us plenty to talk about.

However it has not all been bad. We made an 800 mile round trip to see the girls that were adopted from the same place the same time as No5. All six of them were born within four months so they are much alike and now aged between 18 and 22 months. It was a rainy day, five sets of parents and six little girls [a set of twins included]. What a fantastic time we had. All the girls are generally reserved with adults but for that day they relaxed and any of us would do. Every now and again a small child appeared, asked to be picked up, got cuddles and wondered off. It was not always mine and I could see my girl climbing on strange knee for comfort - something she never did before or has not done after that day. Surprisingly they seemed to recognise each other. No5 and her cot sister gave each other very gentle cuddles and then spent a good half hour poking each other to the ribs and giggling. Despite us parents being very different our time in China brought us together and our children will have each other when they grow up and try to make sense of being transracially adopted across the globe. A rare gift indeed, especially as adoption numbers from China have been declining and most parents now travel alone.

Are these hot days groundhog days or not? My sister says I do not qualify as she lives groundhog life and knows more about it than I do. That was after eight early shifts in a specialist care unit for severe Alzheimer sufferers. She has started work there recently and despite the wonderful activities they offer every day pretty much repeats the one before, especially when it comes to their clients abilities.

OK she won the argument but people in my life go round in sort of cycles too. When temperature reaches certain figure my other sister begins the annual process of divorce proceedings. On the home front - a lot less dramatically - No5 overheats, needs long play in cool water and then even longer cooling and drying period in the swinging hammock. We all push her at least half an hour each day and it is a bliss to see someone so relaxed yet keeping an eye on the work in the yard, waving daddy each time he drives by.

In the cool of the mornings I keep an eye of my blogger friends. This summer's theme has been Nantucket Island in the USA. It started with a new table cloth for kitchen table full of little signs and one of them is "Nantucket Bay Inn". Before long Finnish Blogger Mama from New Hampshire took her family of seven there to stay in a family house. The next thing I knew American Blogger from London was there with her family too on her way to Boston. While on the Island Blogger Mama bough a car from Oklahoma and from her drive home shared some fantastic pictures from Kansas. Which made me wonder how Kansasfarmer is doing? Could I put a request in for some more Kansas pictures and some from the beautiful old houses too?! The big summer suspense has been waiting for the next installment from the "Diary of Becoming a Farmer".

I trust you have by now figured out that we do not stretch the brain or muscle too much but just enjoy the few beauties mother nature puts our way. However we are still able to laugh.

As The Bus i.e. family vehicle, has broken down there has been a slight shortage of trips to the beach - Hisself is not partial to half a ton of sand on his leather upholstery, not to mention the wet body boarding gear & smelly dog. We all do not fit into the car anyway, so the boys decided to go to the nearby forest instead. On they return I asked "How was it?" "Raining." says No3. The sun was blaring from blue sky and temperature above +27 degrees C. "Raining what?" I asked. "Pigeons," said No1. ?????? On that day baby pigeons were practising flying. They had just about mustered the rudimentals of the job itself and sort of figured what to do with the trees but two large moving figures were just too much to cope with. Boys had no option but to leave the practising ground for health reasons, theirs and the birds.

 

mil 60'sDid anyone else watch George Gently on BBC1 8 pm Sunday night? Not my usual cup of tea either but Hisself and I collapsed in front of telly after a day of shearing sheep. It is a detective soap set in 1960's Britain and that episode had an ex German POW visiting the farm he stayed during the war. He got murdered and so the story unfolded.

Hisself found it a very positive story: the farmers were kind, generous people and the murderer a greenie - a park ranger or something similar. I on the other hand found the portrayal of farmer's wife stereotypical. The ugliest woman you can find in apron and cardigan dishing out hearty meals to the hungry family. I think she could have been found in a farmhouse kitchen in the 1860's but surely not in 1960's.

Where Hisself seems to find nothing wrong in the way farmers appear in media I do. Finally I figured out that the images dished out from television have no relation to his everyday communication with the wider world. However they impact mine quite dramatically.

Women, the competitive bunch we are, have a nice box for a farmer's wife with a label on it saying: kind, simple, large, old fashioned and plain. Which is generally fine by me. This autumn I will have to find a playgroup where No5 can make friends to have a social life. It means I must be friendly with several people because No5 likes their child regardless of my personal opinion. She has a right to fit among her peers, go to birthday parties and have play dates. In the process several women will try and convince me that I am uglier, stupider and more out of date than they are and should stop pretending otherwise. By the way they know what farmers wives are like, they have seen us in telly!

To make a point here is MIL [mother in law] with Hisself in early 60's. Yes, finally an image of him. He has changed somewhat but she still looks like the same despite us celebrating her 80th in August. Can't quite imagine her in apron or cardigan...

In real life I have been out with both No1 [son] and No2 [daughter]. I think I am getting too old for shepherding duties. In town to get No1's eyes tested with No5 who naturally was all over big brother. The result?? Every single shop assistant in her 20's drooling over my son. "Oh he is so good with babies!" "Isn't he handsome!".  Yes, and he is just 17 and I am his mother, not a marriage consultant!

After that shock I thought we could recover with a trip to the beach. First time for couple of years No2 decided to stay in dry land and build sand castles with No5 while the rest of them went out to ride the waves. Well, if you ever want to see all breeds of dog in half an hour that is the way to do it. Males all ages parading round us with the pretence of walking their pooch. The dogless wanderers relying to frisbees, balls and kites. The young "loons" were well within the limits of fun but the hanging beer bellies with stretching tattoos aged 30 and over were beyond my sense of humor, after all No2 is just 15.

There is a real snake in this blog too. Day after the hols No2 showed us a lump sized half an apple on the side of her foot. It looked like an insect bite, though a giant one, so we just let it be. When swelling went down two little holes came visible. She had been walking along the coastline and felt a nip in her foot. It was an adder trying to get her through her shoe! That piece of coastline is famous for its snakes, No3 saw some next to the cabin earlier. Snakes was the main reason I wanted a place facing the evening sun as they often slither to cabin steps to warm in the first rays of sun. They are known to bite when stepped on...

We are back from holidays and on the way home from airport I visited a local supermarket to fill the fridge. Looking at the vegetable selection my face fell. The selection and quality was poor.

I have to say that this time of year even the Russians have a wider selection, better quality and more realistic pricing system. At least in there they get what is in season; and at the moment it was succulent varieties of cherries, that were very cheap, strawberries at give-away prices, peaches and nectarines in season and raspberries just beginning to appear with higher prices. They were stored in huge enamel measures and looked so juicy in the sun. Vegetables were equally good quality and abundant.

In Finland I was simply blown away. There was an open market every morning with fresh produce directly from farms. There are farms that bake bread for market maybe twice a week and others that come every day with a fresh fruit and vegetable selection. There was two large supermarkets surrounding the market place and both were doing good business too. In food the top line in labels is country of origin. Most commonly fresh produce is locally sourced and it says so in large letters too. In smaller print one can read what the product is - I mean a cucumber is a cucumber - we all know what it looks like and then the price of course. None of this nonsense that I have often seen in Tesco where home grown and imported vegetables are in the same container and the country of origin in tiny letters printed in an obscure place.

The other thing I liked was availability of advice. All potato varieties were clearly named, there were six locally grown the day I counted and beside them was a list what each variety was best for. There was two boxes of each; washed and unwashed [cheaper] for choice. Finns think pre-packed food is suspicious, my mum in her 80's walked to the market place rather than bought her potatoes in a plastic bag.

Most impressive was the variety. Large boxes of spring cabbage (I had forgotten they existed) just arrived as did small new beetroots in bunches. As in Russia, in addition to locally grown the crops in season further south in Europe were available in large quantities too. There was no push for pineapple or mango - this is the local high season and people were taking full advantage of it.

I cannot understand why, in a country able to grow a much wider variety of fruit and vegetables for a far longer season than Finland we eat like poor Russians in mid March? Sadly we do it year round, every year. Makes me wish for green fingers and a large vegetable patch, unfortunately I was blessed with a killer thumb when it comes to all things green.

 

 

After 18 months of planning we finally got our final family holiday. Next summer the two oldest are going their own way and it surely will not be Finland, somehow they do not associate words fun and relatives from my side together. I have a huge family who love to organise. If we stay with them I'll get our holiday meals minutely detailed two weeks before we travel and during today's afternoon coffee they tried to explain No1 son what he wanted to study in the university. Soon followed by "He is desperate to learn Finnish, if you would let him!" .....?******

For reasons of peace I this time round turned down every offer of accommodation and hired a cottage in the end of a very long and winding gravel road. They are all coming for a BBQ tomorrow - so much for my careful planning. But I must admit this is an ideal place for country dwellers: No near neighbours, large cottage and a second one to separate the teenagers with reasonable breathing space. The second one houses the inevitable sauna too, and yes, we have been. We mix and match and eat in the middle and go swimming and then back to sauna again. Health warnings do exist - I just do not want to remember any of them.

The place is next to Baltic and offers endless fun. My kids are trying to fish and as they never have tried before their ingenious attempts are killing the family with laughter. My dad is likely turning in his grave but as they are all allergic to fish I see no reason why they should catch any.

They have all learnt to row a boat too. First we pulled the boat up to the beach and practised on dry land, then tried on water. The owners are very wise, the oars are bolted in and cannot escape and buoyancy aids are offered free of charge. No5 wears one all day long. If she wanders to the water we should be able to spot her riding the waves safely. I think the biggest threat to her is mummy swan who is rather protective of her five babies.

The kitchen in the cabin is first class but the BBQ is even better. It stands in the middle of a roofed sitting area and is a home made design I've never seen before. A square funnel, with a hole in the bottom (covered with removable drain cover) and a bucket for ashes below. Bit of mesh on the top and it cooks beautifully.

Hisself is not one for boats but we are only 3 miles from one of Finland's topmost agricultural colleges. It is open every day for visitors in summer time and has enough to keep any farmer happy for a day of two. We had good links there before as Hisself has over the years visited a few discussion group meetings and given the odd lecture.

Oh, you are still waiting for the giant knickers. When the first load of washing returned from the washline I found a giant pair of knickers! They were obviously in the machine before we got here. So I lifted them up and hisself said "Definitely not mine." I do hope so as they were ladies. Turned to No2 daughter who innocently said "I thought they were yours mummy, extra room for comfort on the flight...."  The size of them!!! I am still speechless.

Fathers Day. Yes, I know it was on the 15th. Although it was a big surprise when it was announced in the radio that morning. Our kitchen calendar states very clearly that Father's Day [UK] is on the 22nd......

So this week got a very confused start. Mind you, every day has been an improvement since. Yesterday's visit to the Highland Show was nothing short of brilliant. To me the Highland was the first impression of Scotland all those years ago. Nowadays I spend a lot less time drooling over Hisself than I did then, but that has not reduced the attraction of the day out at all.

Could I add that he looked gorgeous on the day and I nearly felt the need to fend the competition off with my handbag. On second thoughts it is a brand new bag and letting the next generation loose around dad works much faster. Maybe I should have dressed with more care too.....But when weather forecast is blustery wind and heavy showers it really does not matter what I have under my full length rainproof jacket, all one can see are my trusty "show boots".

This year's show was all about making it fun for No5. Seeing things that she would find interesting and pointing them all out. Making her feel successful and part of the community. I love being among farmers and I want her to love going out among cattle, machinery and other country pursuits. She was chuffed to bits with herself, behaved beautifully and generally enjoyed her day out. Her default position is anti crowds but obviously she spotted the difference - country folk were less "at her face" and she did appreciate the courtesy.

It is my annual window to the wider world in more ways than one. I spend the day looking, gathering ideas, collecting web addresses and generally investigating what goods and services small independent companies offer at this point in time and at what cost. This year I figured out that the difference between bargain box fleece jumper for No5 at the bottom of the hill compared to the one on top of the hill is about £40 and the label.

Another big change is the return of the buggies. In the early 1990's the show was full of small children. However in the turn of the Millennium there were few enough to count them all. It seemed that the hard years made people postpone starting the family or simply not have the money for a day out. Now with the brighter future the number of next generation has gone up too. Markedly many of the parents are much older than they used to be. As ever, the fathers take charge of the little ones on their own too, and it warms my heart to see what able, caring and loving fathers farmers are.

Another change over the years has been the quality and quantity of free gifts that companies offer. The children used to gather a large plastic bag each - now one of them got a free pen. In the drinks front I can remember the time when wine flowed freely. It soon turned to cups of tea and coffee which latterly have been replaced with spring water.

I never budget for food or drinks on show days but I think it will soon be necessary. This year we received the usual number of invitations to lunches, launches and refreshments. Sadly I must say that last years platters of prime beef and whole roast pigs were replaced by thin slices of cheese, the basket of bread was now an oatcake and pyramids of biscuits had shrank to a single offering next to the tea cup. Most alarmingly the flowing tea and coffee has in many places been sadly replaced by a re-usable shopping bag with a few leaflets inside. Please!!! I have now gathered 23 thin cotton bags. Could it be possible to exchange some of them to cups of tea in the next show???

There are still few traditional companies with good old fashioned hospitality. We parked our buggy into one tent for afternoon tea and a bottle for the youngest one. As I mentioned it was a blustery day and a gust of wind blew in from the open doorway, whipped a vase of flowers into the air and the water went flying - straight into No5's buggy. No harm done as it was just water but it rendered her transport unusable for the original purpose, carting Missy around. There was nothing to it but head for the car and start the long journey home.

First time ever we had to stop on the way home for a meal - we were starved!

P.S. If you have read Hisself's blog and wonder I can assure that we were in the same show and spent several hours doing things together.

Enough time has now lapsed to find some humor in lambing. This season's best must be the morning when I went castrating lambs and found that No2 [daughter] had pushed the box of rubber rings into the hand cleaner. I was in a hurry and stuffed a few into my pocket as they were and boy did we have fun! They pinged off the ringer every time flying an amazing distance to an unpredictable direction. I am sure even the ewes were laughing in the end! There was nothing to it but to return home, wash every ring carefully in a warm soapy water and dry them in a sieve above the aga.

This weeks disaster must be No1 [son's] end of exams party. It was something we expected but not one we want to repeat. Hisself is allergic to alcohol. He does not drink at all. No1 cannot tolerate beer. He is fine on the night but 24 hours later........So he decided to see what effect spirits would have on his body. His memory stops two hours into the party and into his third drink. Then we got the call to get him home. He stopped retching 14 hours later.

On a more positive note I can be reasonably sure that he will not be drink driving. The driving lessons have started and every time he comes home with a new tale to tell He has been driving his tractor from1970's for four years now. First lesson he found working brakes, now the clutch control is giving him trouble. This looking behind you business is confusing too - this far he has concentrated to making sure he does not drive over sheep in front of him.

No2 [daughter] has always been full of surprises. She is a girl who will paint her nails and do the hair for a game of footie. That is playing, not watching - she is a mean player. She loves her creature comforts and yet this weekend announced that she was going camping [!?]. Or tenting as she calls it. I am still quite unsure what to make of that. She went with a bicycle [!], dressed in tracksuit and it was raining [!]. As she is nearing 6' in height there are no young farmers taller than her armpit in cycling distance and at her age [15] looks are all that matter. Any ideas what she is up to????

For a day or two I was getting comfort from the fact that No4 [daughter], who is ten is still straight forward little girl. None of the hormones of big sister and grown out of the tantrums of little one. This came to an end when she borrowed some CDs from a friend and is presently educating me with gusto. For three nights now I have cooked to the tunes of Abar-Ul-Hag; Fakhir v/s Atif and Omer Inayat's. All big hits in Pakistan I hear. In addition she demands that I dance to her favourites......For some reason the cooking has not been to my usual standards.

Twice a year, during planting and harvest I try and do my agricultural bit. While Hisself is busy I manage the end of year accounts, annual organic inspection, farm assured livestock and grain inspections, pet lambs, calving and all the related paperwork. To be honest I have not been near a cow this year as No1 [son] has taken over the practical side but the paperwork is still all mine. For added bonus I get all the trips for spare parts too.

People generally have the idea that I am somewhat distant to practicalities of farming. To be honest I just look clumsy at it because Hisself is absolutely brilliant on the job and has trained all the children to outshine me by the time they turn seven. Even little No5 [15 months] went into the tractor twice a day while he was ploughing and sowing and now understands how both machines operate. Like everyone else she will be able to reverse the pedal tractor with trailer by her third birthday.

This new era of modern farmers wife has produced women with an ability to balance career, farm, children and a happy home life. On one hand I respect the modern woman and appreciate what they have done to gender equality, on the other I would like the world to think that being a mother, let alone Mrs. Farmer, is a full time job itself. A job that when properly done deserves respect.

Maybe it is the lack of uniform that demotes the home talent. I wanted to go to our local renewable energy conference with Hisself but it is strictly no children territory. To get No5 in I needed the full business gear, including the female version of business suit. I detest black on principle [makes me feel very mournful] and cleverly found my outfit from the local charity shop for £3.50. But it worked! with 3" heels and full paintwork no-one felt brave enough to stop me at the door despite No5 sitting in her pouch flaunting every rule in the book. Did not feel quite so good after carrying the girl for four hours on those heels but the conference was well worth the effort.

The funny bit was that number of associates in the industry decided to pop by the day after. Very politely in a roundabout way they tried to find out from Hisself if I was the same woman that was with him the day before - do carpet slippers and an apron really make that big a difference????

Oh, you guessed. My new life with no less than two washing machines. People at times wonder how women coped with house work during the days of large families and small washboards - can't be anything like today, can it??

Sometime after the fourth one was born I noticed that the average lifespan of my washing machine had shrank to six, maybe nine months. They all worked 24/7 and died of exhaustion. So Hisself got me an industrial sized one. The longest programme takes an hour and the sizable drum takes two and a half ordinary domestic loads. I am back to washing 2-3 loads a day and the bearings last about two years at a time, which is a novelty.

However this magic machine has maximum temperature of 55 C and my whites have suffered. It was OK when I still had time to pre-soak in stain remover but after No5 arrived....not good. As Hisself likes his t-shirts white [and as a romantic gesture] I got a lovely new machine for my whites. He researched as for any machinery purchase and found one made in China with Liebherr technology. When the first programme finished the reverse alarm sound of a large excavator echoed down my corridor to the kitchen and for a second I had this image of my new pride and joy reversing to my wash line to deliver the freshly washed goods.

The admin was wondering if Hisself is always that romantic? He is so much more. Since childhood I have loved draining muddy puddles by making little rivers with my wellies. When it rained for a month he went round my play area every night with the forklift making fresh tracks for the rain to fill. I found that very special, but No1 son pointed out that mummy is easily pleased! There was I thinking that Isobel's suggestion of practical presents had sank in....

Another piece of machinery on my shopping list is a little kids trailer. The kind you see in American TV and movies with a long handle and big tyres. They used to be imported to UK and sold at staggering prices. The CE regulation has condemned both the paint and the stability. Apparently If you turn the handle as far as it will go on a slope the thing will fall over. I would very much like my children to learn that if you play silly with machinery you'll get hurt, but developing sense of danger has become old fashioned.

I have two methods of getting stuff from America: Usually buying online, but they are not allowed to ship these things to the EU anymore. When all else fails Aunt Arizona goes to Wal Mart and uses the US postal service. In this case the object is rather heavy and Aunt nearing 80. She can't lift it to the shopping trolley let alone into her car. In desperation we have contacted Uncle Canada. He is a single man of certain advancing age with no experience with children. Uncharacteristically he has developed an interest to No5 and I think he just might get this one right. This is a trailer and he is a farmer. It is the set price that worries me - can this man buy a trailer outside an auction???? I'll keep you posted.

To a totally different kind of kit. No2 daughter has a retro day at school next week and she is to wear something from the decade's past. We found a rather fetching corset from the 1980's that pleased her and stumbled across my favourite pair of shoes from a long time ago. Made from leather and lace they are something a woman of my age should not admit owning let alone go out wearing them.

But I am guilty on both accounts. No1 son called that his bus was nearing the town. He had been hiking in the hills for two days for charity and was in desperate need of food, wash and sleep. So I dashed out. As I parked and watched other parents to rush to welcome their loved children from the bus I realised that for me the car was best place to hide. In addition to my fancy shoes I was wearing a bright red pair of tracksuit bottoms with bright yellow text "China" shining across my derrière and down my leg. All matched with Hisself's red Xmas jumper, well that is what it was before the moths attacked.

While all other mothers returned carrying half their son's kit and giving me dirty looks for being uncaring, No1 son arrived with a very pretty girl carrying half his kit and a rather satisfied smile on his face. "Thanks mum for not showing up!" - blessed are the days when the little I can manage is all they want in the world!!!!

Today is something special in our house. No5 has spent half her life with us and we are celebrating No5 style... All I can recall from Christmas is how poorly I felt and how much No5 objected on us behaving out of her new routine. From then on she has been prepared for every big day: On her birthday she had a stinking cold and none of us had slept for three nights. Chinese New Year went down with a diarrhoea from hell and a week without sleep and for this special day we have......chicken pox.

Not just any chicken pox. Last week she got her MMR jab and as the nurse promised the measles rash arrived 7-10 days later. So she has rash, blisters on rash and a temperature. Not to mention temper to go with it. I have carried her four days because that is the only way to get her to sleep during the day and most importantly to stop screaming. Her hands have been in every pot, every meal and every e-mail. I have postponed end of accounting year, paying bills and talking in the telephone till we are better.

On a brighter note she has been sleeping at night!

What I call hunter gathering is more like shopping to anyone else. Just that when you live back and beyond tracking down items takes  many of the skills my brother taught me on our hare hunting days. The two oldest ones are beginning their wandering years and both needed hiking boots and backpacks. In my system it takes a lot of time just to find the shops that sell the goods we need.

Fair enough I can get stuff online and for things like books, toys and baby clothes I am happy with that. While US$ is worth 50p bulk buying No5's clothing from USA sales has proven to be a profitable job. General saving is 50% from our sale prices from the better quality end. But I want a backpack that is going to be carried by my daughter for 28 days to be properly fitted and something I can take back to the shop if need be.

With my method of madness, two weeks of holidays and several hundred miles later we finally found a specialist shop [8th we visited] where the staff knew the difference between short and long trip backpack and were able to fit not one but both of the kids with what they needed.

I do realise that our special hunting methods give goods a large carbon footprint - something that bothers my conscience quite a bit. Yet my hunter gathering has provided us with a local, reliable and cheap source of seasonal vegetables and free range eggs. With my car loaded before we hit the supermarket I have been able to lift my nose to the broad beans from Kenya, baby corn from Thailand and fresh asparagus from Mexico. I have no wish to let my standards slip as I know my farmer will have very similar selection when the time is right, just that his wares taste a lot better.

Cannot let a blog go by without a mention of Hisself who has spent the very wet days with new Scottish agrisupport system online applications. It has driven him bonkers. Every application produces a little sheet of paper and with this paper you have to provide a little map with a picture of your plans. My job has been photocopying, colouring in and making sure right pieces of paper have been put together. I used my best colouring pencils [for cattle spread sheets] and made a neat job, each one is a different colour. Hisself accepted my offerings with a broad smile and disappeared today to buy me something special - a second washing machine. There is no limit to that man's imagination!

The title is sexist to say the least but I learnt the words "forgetful" and "vague" while working in a hospice. [I loved the job and it was a great excuse to be near Hisself.] As my mind struggles from day to day I am pretty confident that my problems are not terminal - just some long term damage for a townie who copes with a farm and the farmer on day to day basis.

First of all a German engineer came to visit. He is helping Hisself with his latest idea. A nice chap. Complemented me on the lunch I gave him during his last visit. [?] What last visit???? When???? Hisself tells me that he popped in a week or so after we returned from China with No5. I can tell you to the smallest detail of every doctor's visit, every poking health visitor, every sample we extracted, every visit to the needle nurse and every bit of progress we made as a family BUT I can not recall this German. Total blank.

My second problem is much more annoying. Hisself is not admitting - so not quite sure who to blame. Someone has re-organised the computer Favourites list to an alphabetical order. Hisself always had his sites organised that way; F for Farmer's Weekly, hence I can still find it. I would put it under A for agriculture closely followed by B for blogs, C for clothes and so on. As a result my two minute morning scoot to check the world has turned to an hour's struggle at night when everyone else is asleep. It is so bad that I need a large mug of chili tea to drown my foul language - luckily even the dog is in bed.

So we have arrived to my dog problem. When No5 arrived we had two Jack Russels and a little girl with sensory problems - she would not touch fur for example. As girl got better and braver the Top Dog objected. She soon [the dog that is] had a short trip top the vets and permanent residence behind the grain shed. The Spare Dog learnt her lessons: never go into a car with Hisself and No5 can do no wrong. This dog takes her new job seriously. She sits on my knee at every bottle time offering some hair for patting, leaves the rabbits for pushing the buggy and sits under the highchair at meal times keeping the place tidy. I have seen her patiently sharing her water bowl where No5 was washing her toy plates, offering her tail for balancing when No5 was learning to walk and even being stuffed into a trolley full of bricks without a complaint.

Problem? Her name. This dog has a name. I use it - the dog obeys. However everyone else can use any word and she is happy to recognise it as a call. No1 calls her Gut, and she comes bounding to his feet. Just to show off Hisself called her an "Autonomous Region of Hair" and it worked! Even No5 has joined the gang she will not use the Name, or even dog but has devised her own Bow Wow which the dog naturally loves. When under a lot of pressure I have trouble using the right name for the right child [the fact they move around makes it more difficult] - it would be nice if the dog would let me off the hook.

I did read Matthew Naylor going on about sauna in the last issue of FW [21.03.08]. Fascinating to see how a Brit reacted to a very normal Finnish activity. The way I read it - the culture shock was overwhelming.

Basically sauna is designed for cleansing and relaxation. It is ofter referred to with similar reverence as church - it cleanses both the body and the soul. It is one of the corner stones of a healthy society.

Finland is not a classless society - but it thrives on equality. One place to demonstrate this is in sauna. All arrive together with nothing else but what mother nature was willing to give us. No pomp of car, suit or expensive shoes. It puts a female on equal footing with a male, the road sweeper with the boss. All that counts is wit [in Finland the ability to express yourself with the least number of words possible] and tolerance to heat on the top shelf. People learn to appreciate each other for what they are, not what they earn.

Another healthy outcome is males mixing with females in a non sexual manner while naked. The recent survey in the UK showed that majority of people think a woman showing flesh in public is responsible if she is raped. In Finland showing a bit of leg and a bit of cleavage is just party clothes - invitation to share any more than a passing look is communicated with totally different means. It also means that girls and boys know what a naked person looks like - no need for experiments behind the bike shed. In statistics terms Finland has one of the lowest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world, while the UK is the leader of the pack, in the most negative way.

Finns gladly invite all guests to join sauna. We think it is one of the best joys of life and within healthy social boundaries. However, despite some gentle teasing it is perfectly OK to chicken out. Making sauna to a weird experience with sexual undertones is very bad sport indeed and will forever taint one's credibility as a balanced person in the Finnish society.

We have one too. At the moment it is still sitting on a pallet in the workshop but it will be going one of these days [i.e. the day we can agree where to put it]. Hisself likes sauna but is not comfortable about sharing with lots of people. He says so and is excused. As my mum says "These foreign men cannot help the weird upbringing they had."

What can one then say about sauna without offence? We women tend to moan about what it does to hair, many a column has been written about the pros and cons of heat treatments. Men tend to concentrate to the technical side; is a real wood oven better than the new electric models, where to get the best stove stones and where one can gain access to an old fashioned smoke sauna.....

I will return to the title later on but first of all I want to celebrate the fact that our family has returned to normal. We are relaxed, No5 is relaxed and even the dog sleeps with both eyes shut. We are so normal that I have even joined Hisself to a farm walk nearby.

That was on one of the rare days when snow had dusted the ground and the world was glittering in the spring sun. Temperature was around zero and felt positively arctic with a gale force wind whistling from the North Sea. We had no option but to take No5 with us. I have taken a lead from the native African customs and carry my youngest wrapped neatly in a five metre long piece of fabric. I feel positively an earth mother doing it, but wearing my extra large winter jacket I think the look is more like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family. This far people have been too kind to pass a comment.

The day itself was organised by SAC and turned out to be one of the best for a long time. When the information got too much into detail there was plenty of prime cattle to admire [No5 loves cattle] and it was all planned around shortish walks between interest points. I managed surprisingly well with my load, but truth to be told got left behind at the last half mile. It was up the hill and against the wind and after three hours I was not quite at my best.

Hisself is planning some building work this summer and got an invitation to visit a farm not too far away to see similar work being done. It was the first dry day after a wet spell, so too wet to get on with any real work. At 10 am I suggested it would be a good day for being away. No, Hisself was busy. By 11 he had changed his mind. 11.15 he decided to go after lunch. 11.30 he wanted a packed lunch. 11.45 he wanted to eat his lunch early before he went. So we had a picnic at the kitchen table. I am telling you, even my newly returned relaxed state of mind was getting slightly frazzled by now......

After being cooped up in the house for months it was a treat of a drive. On the drier ground the spring work was in the full swing, sun made an appearance and the roads were still quiet. There is something so sooting in the Scottish countryside with quiet roads and nothing but tractors in sight. That is before the Season begins and all is ruled by the speed of endless caravans fighting over the road with equally endless rows of motorbikes.

Back to my title. It has all to do with No2 [daughter] signing up to a months trekking in South America in 2009. It is through school and they are supposed to raise the necessary funds themselves. As the cost is on the wrong side of £3000, there is dozen of them going and all of them come from our little community of 5000 people I could spot a plea for money coming my way in near future.

Faced with the fact that I was going to be forced to part of large amount of money whether I wanted or not I employed my daughter as my cleaner. I must say, the house is sparkling and I no longer need an excuse to keep unexpected visitors outdoors. Finally I have joined the ladies who can say "I do not do dear, I have someone who does!"

I am a failure on many domestic fronts but still think that I do rather well with my strong points. I mother my five children full time, feed and water the crew, keep Hisself happy and his office up to date. Not bad????

Then naturally I have a friend who also married a Scottish person. They have five children too [although hers are all under ten] and she keeps his accounts. I try not to feel bad with the fact that she is a brilliant cook, excellent housekeeper, rather nice person and does voluntary work every week. Not to mention that her eight-year-old can sew her own buttons back when they fall out. But now she has outperformed me totally.

One of their friends needed hospital treatment in the city and she opened her home for the family for the required two months. The friends came complete with four children. So now this friend is in hospital, his wife spends her days with him and my friend looks after all nine children, three of them are under three years old, every day. And she does not even sweat!!!!

Do I feel inadequate????? Yes I do.

Hisself popping in and sitting down in his boiler suit in the kitchen has not helped. I generally disapprove of him coming in wearing work clothes, but this time he went out with an extremely filthy bib velcroed into his sticky rear. A good wife would have noticed and saved him the embarrassment and a better one would not have dirty bibs discarded on kitchen chairs in the first place.

[Mind you not as bad as the time when he grabbed his new quilted shirt straight from the wash basket. This particular type has a velcro replacing the bottom button. He went round half a day with ladies underwear sticking to his shirt before any of us noticed.]

Lifting of my spirits has come from the most unusual direction. Mother in law. Hisself's parents are now in their eighties and MIL is a formidable lady to say the least. They had visited a young cousin who recently had his first baby. They are a lovely young couple and I can see her polishing everything trying to impress the grand old lady of the family. - Poor girl, MIL compared her efforts to mine and she failed at every hurdle; the house was too clean as was the baby; she showed far too much attention to her guests, not enough to the baby and  tea was not up to standard.

It took nearly twenty years but I am delighted to announce that my mother-in-law finally approves of me. Beat that ladies!!

Now our age range goes from one to 17, so the variety is very satisfying to live with. At one level they communicate very well. For example today No1[son] tried to comb No5[daughter] hair and pulled slightly too hard. No5 retaliated immediately by sinking her eight sharp teeth into her big brother's leg. I had to tell them both off and soon enough they joined forces at playing with the dog.

This time prelim season coincided with plenty of snow and rather good sledging weather. No1 returned from good days fun with a lens missing from his spectacles. Unfortunately he depends on his specs to see and can neither read or write without them. The special prescription he needs naturally means extra days when ordering a replacement. Last years model was missing and the frame from before that was way too small to his face.

All above saw him taking prelims with his sunglasses, which is not a cool look in mid winter with school uniform, especially not when indoors. Needless to say the results have been poor. I am in two minds whether to blame the lack of vision or the fact that he had not worked hard enough.

Meanwhile No2 [daughter], who had the full two weeks off and two exams to take, enjoyed home life to full. She slept till lunchtime, made pancakes with jam and cream for breakfast and spent the rest of the day playing indoors with No5 or outside with the bull. She has never been one for horses but absolutely loves cattle. Our bull gets treats and cuddles every day as well as his fresh bed and feeding from her dainty hands.

After days of talking about moving cattle I heard Hisself calling for his daughter: "Come now, I need you with the cows!". No2 "I can't come." Hisself: "here, Now!" No2 " I can't daddy, my hair is perfect" Hisself "What??" No2 "It was horrible yesterday, why could you not ask me yesterday?" Hisself "I am asking you now!" No2 "It took me ages to get my hair perfect and now I must put a hat on - it will be ruined." Hisself "What does it matter, you were home all day yesterday and you are home all day today." With bad grace and shaking heads father and daughter went to work together. That is logic at 15.

Ever wondered where the statistics come about teenagers. You know the 70% of 12 year-olds have been bullied during last year and so on. No3 [son] was filling in one of these questionnaires and as the family tradition, was taking the mickey out of the job. The question was "Name 10 things that make you afraid." The plan is to begin with reasonable answers like, getting a poor education and getting a low paid job. Then to the slightly odd; wheat price falling and finding sheep in my room. Next comes bizarre; alien invasion and the Apocalypse and then finishing off with personal disasters like having to cut my hair and in the girl's case breaking a nail. Lesson for adults; never pay any attention to teenage statistics!

In the other end of the spectrum No5 has kept us busy with a campylobacter infection. Last weekend it reached a stage when I saw dirty nappies whenever I closed my eyes. She is better now and regaining her control over the house again. After five months she has made friends with he dog. The dog is very much in love with apples and sits patiently next to No5 whenever she has a slice. Apple is still a bit difficult to handle so delicious crumbs fall directly into the dogs waiting mouth. Finally No5 figured how much the dog loves apple and every now and again she moves the slice to her free hand ans lets the dog lick her juicy fingers clean. We are working on a healthy immunosystem here...

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