Monday, 30 June 2014

Chicken Licken

Well it's countdown, only 4 more days until we collect our three battery hens! We already have three hens, two Rhode islands and a Black rock and we love having them but battery hens are a whole new ball game. I'm expecting them to be bedraggled, sad looking and thin.

I've heard good and bad stories.Chickens clucking round the back door looking plump and happy and monsters charging down the coop to attack you on sight.We shall see.

I've borrowed my friend's chicken arc so we can house them separately for a couple of weeks or so to avoid undue stress and hen pecking (hence the terms hen pecked or pecking order). The boys wheeled it through the village and I've given it a coat of harmless wood preservative today .The ark is a work of art in itself. It was made by my friend's husband and I'm most impressed.Top marks for craftmanship!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Fun in the Sun!

We've just enjoyed a very satisfying and fulfilling weekend.I'm gradually learning to appreciate that shopping sprees with their short term satisfaction are not for me. The feeling of exhilaration when you climb a mountain or spend some time with a friend and a coffee are far more my thing.

My son's explorer scout group are involved in our local Incredible edible scheme.The idea is to plant fruit and vegetables in waste spaces round the town making them attractive places to be. The scout garden started life as a dingy corner between a car park and factory shop, full of brambles and trees.Over the last few weeks they have hoiked trees from the ground, dug up weeds, built staging and paths and yesterday they had started to plant.Black currant bushes, beans, nasturtiums,leeks ( which I've now learned you plant without infilling with soil afterwards.

My friend and I and our two girls offered to lend a hand, filling troughs with flowers, building wigwams and digging over ground. What sights we must have looked when we walked into our local supermarket later for a coffee!

My eldest son then dashed off to join his friends for a well earned swim at Fell Foot! One again I count my blessings that we have all this on our door step. My daughter and her friend took part in a family fun day at Kepplewray,doing archery and ghyll scrambling in the Yew dale valley, whilst I joined my friends on a seven mile sponsored walk in the evening to raise money for our local Hospice. It was a lovely balmy evening and lovely to chatter as we walked with a friend's dog George.

My autistic son is still unable to join us but he did come out in the sunshine to join us in two family barbeques. It's nice to see that he feels comfortable in the family unit.We just have to work at expanding that now as he missed fish and chips the other day because he couldn't face going out, despite having put his shoes on ready to go.Anxiety is such a crippling  affliction. But as always with Autism we go with the flow and it works for us!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Well Mr Wainwright,that's one off the list!

Today I came down a mountain with a 77 year old man.At seventy he had walked all the Wainwrights and only two years ago he'd had a hip replacement! He told me how unbelievably lucky we are to live here and I'd agreed.

The route we took was the Walna Scar road an old quarry road between Coniston and the Duddon Valley.I'd climbed the road from Coniston before reaching a gate onto open fell and was amazed to find a car park! The route was gradual and wiggled up the hill by means of a gravel path.Never quite "too hard" but I had my moments wondering if it was too much for someone as unfit as me.

As I looked back down the valley towards Coniston Lake ( or Coniston water as it is properly called) I could see the extent of the lake and the wind turbines of kirkby moor in the distance. Reaching Walna scar I could see over into the Duddon valley,over to the Duddon estuary and across to Black Combe which I've yet to climb.

I followed the grassy ridge to White Maiden,a rocky summit looking down over Broughton moor and the quarry where I sat and ate sandwiches,away from the hardened climbers making their way up Brown Pike towards Goats Water.

It was at this point I decided to return the same way,  as my daughter was climbing in the Yewdale fells with a school party and we 'd agreed to meet at four. I'd intended to
Walk to Banishhead quarry but decided it was too far if we were to meet on time.

It was half way down when I met my old man with his walking companion who was accompanied by a hound.I jokingly advised him to keep it on a lead in case it decided to join the hound trail taking place that day and I discovered it was a retired trail hound.The man explained how a trail of aniseed was set by a person on foot who dragged a rag,covered with aniseed over the ground,topping it up at various intervals.He would wait until the hounds set off before completing the route.Meanwhile there were 'spotters' on the hills (and as he pointed them out to me I could see men situated at various points on the montain-side with their binoculars ,looking suspiciously like spies on the look out in a James Bond movie.)
Trail hounds differed from fox hounds apparently as fox hounds were stockier.

As we reached the car park at Fell gate I noticed that there were now far more off road vehicles than previously and various people were walking their hounds on leads in little quilted jackets, like something from Ascot in preparation for the first race.

It was a fascinating experience and one of those events when you realise once again just how much there is to learn by getting out of your armchair and setting off on a walk,however short or long it may be. That old man didn't realise it but I learned a lot about the lakes today and now have far more walks on my 'to do list' and I was able to share what I'd learned about trail hounds with my autistic son who hopefully one day in the future will feel able to accompany me in the fells! Never say never!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Speaking a different language

This morning when I came downstairs there were several sheets of paper strewn across the floor where my autistic son ( who absolutely HATES putting pen to paper) had been forming what I assumed to be Japanese letters.Indeed they were,when I asked him about them he said that they represented three of our vowel sounds.Oh and by the way he had spent the night learning  the numbers one to a hundred!

He is a shining example of learning through motivation.He is the child John Holt wrote about in his books  How children learn and a classis showcase of how autonomous education works..

As usual and bang on cue.I saw a language course in the charity shop the other day."why didn't you buy it?" He asked

"I wasn't sure you would use it"  I replied "anyway, there's hardly likely to be a queue wanting to whisk it off the shelves.

I was right, there is was this morning, just where I'd spotted it, waiting for me to snap it up.

So now my son is the proud owner of Take off in Japanese and I have saved myself a pretty penny!

Sayonara (which for those of us in the know means Goodbye!)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Going on holiday when your Child has Aspergers

It's getting harder as my son gets older, to go on holiday.Last time we went it was last minute and he told us to give him two weeks notice next time. This time he had known about it for two or three months.We still had a difficult couple of weeks in the run up to going away. He wouldn't eat, he wouldn't talk and he wouldn't sleep.

Much of it is anxiety about the unknown.We have been to this particular resort before which helped but there are still the unknown to be dealt with such as airport security ( which entails taking off ear defenders), flight delays and typical unexpected things that arise.

By the time we were ready to go he was actually quite excited as we were staying at a Premier Inn at Newcastle airport. He knows the set up at Premier Inns and had already investigated the menu and decided on his evening meal.

At the sign of us getting ready he sat in the car,travel pillow at the ready waiting to go!

He had a lovely evening with the biggest ever hamburger and chips and was relaxed and happy because his whole 'little' family was together.

We have the airport down to a fine art now.We only take hand luggage which cuts down on waiting time as we don't have to check in. We were through security in a jiffy and once our gate was called we were straight onto the plane.Another advantage of booking our airline direct as it's rare for them to be seriously delayed.

Flying is fine,my son enjoys the excitement of looking out the window and ordering snacks and drinks and the ipad is great for reading books we've downloaded.When we arrived in Majorca it was 8.00pm and we were straight off the plane to the hire car office and soon on our way.

The first night we stayed in an apartment. As it was late we went to a local restaurant and despite not having eaten all day our son couldn't decide what to eat.We find it best just not to order for him as it's a waste of money so we ordered pork escallopes,pork and chicken.Of course as soon as he saw the chicken he wanted some so twin sister generously shared hers and we all gave him some chips!
Next morning before setting off for our resort we sat on the beach.My son distanced himself from everyone but gradually he began to comment on the wild life as we saw two Mallorcan cormorants, ducking and diving in the sea.

As the week progressed we began to notice a relaxation.He didn't wear his ear defenders at all on holiday, he didn't mention the computer,he asked to go swimming several times and he didn't complain at any of his meals.He even walked through the Pine forests with us to Port Andrax.

He enjoyed the games room with his siblings and even joined us at two barbecues with people he'd never met and survived them! All in all he did incredibly well.

I'm sure the sunny weather helps his moods and the fact he has his whole family round for security, but if you ask him about the best bit of his holiday,he'll still tell you it was coming home!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Fairy Steps

I've been thinking of making a fairy garden. Today I found one,hidden away on the  Lancashire /Cumbria border. I came across it whilst browsing one of my favourite facebook groups called "I love the lake district" .Someone mentioned The Fairy steps.I'd never heard of them despite having lived most of my life in the area and I was intruiged. The Fairy steps were on Beetham Fell in a lime stone escarpment overlooking Arnside Knott.

I  couldn't resist investigating further.Fortunately the weekend dawned sunny and hot and, as I was free from commitments now my eldest has passed his driving test, I grabbed the opportunity to go and find them.Beetham is a lovely village with a n old pub, a church and a water mill and is well worth a visit. I parked at Heron Mill and walked down the lane and past the church to the village shop to ask directions. I was going in the right direction and soon found the footpath sign.Over the field and into the woods which were quiet and cool in the shade. The tree trunks and walls were green with moss and rocky outcrops of limestone appeared by the path.

I climbed the gradual path up the slope, through a gap in the wall and passed a cairn until I came to a clearing on the top of the fell.The view over Arnside Knot was spectacular on such a clear day and I could hear the siren warning people that the 'bore' was on its way up the estuary.

Below me was a narrow crack in the limestone through which the path continued, and a sign at the top signifying that this was the top of The Fairy Steps. Worried that I might get stuck I decided to take the alternate route round the limestone outcrop and I'm so glad I did because I found a real fairy house in the trunk of an old tree.(see below)

Through the woods and down the slope at the other side I passed an old farm with a Pele tower.

As I walked across the Dallam Estate I caught sight of this fellow and his mate and further along the road I discovered a lime kiln and explanatory sign explaining how lime had been quarried and extracted to provide fertilizer for the land.I do love the way you fall unexpectedly on pieces of history and education with no effort at all!

Finally I arrived back at the working mill where I had started out after a lovely day.

And here's the little house I discovered.I think we will soon have a fairy house in our garden!