A January Snow

After weeks of rain, we awoke one morning to a covering of snow. By my mid-Western standards, it wasn’t a significant amount, but those three inches did a wonderful job of covering up the mud and layering the land with a fluffy white blanket.

We were both awake early and took the opportunity for a walk before the crowds of snow-crazed people arrive to go sledding, build snowmen, and generally leave behind a mess from their enjoyment. For us, the chance to be out first, looking for tracks of foxes, badgers and rabbits is exciting.

We found plenty of rabbit tracks surround the house and garden confirming the need for diligence as we plan our summer vegetable planting. Thankfully, there were no paw-prints from foxes anywhere near our chickens. No signs of badgers either. It seems our electric fencing is working to protect our hens.

Oblivious to any predatory risk, the chickens head out to greet their first snow of the season, clucking a mixture of confusion and delight: “This stuff is pretty and makes my feathers look so fetching but where is the mud and how am I to find worms here?” Or, something like that.

It’s still early and the morning sky emits shades of light suggesting more snow to come. We make our way up the path toward the woods and tors, knowing we are the first to lay our boot-tracks in this snow. Roger has a buoyant gate as if he is expecting something exciting to cross his path. Aromas buried beneath the white, flaky ground cover enchant Sam. And I’m taking a few photos to hold onto this moment where it feels as if Dartmoor is revealing her secrets to us only.

 

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Big Sky

Every day, I face many certainties: Sam will need to be walked.   Roger and I will become happier citizens of the world after a cup of coffee. The skies of Dartmoor will amaze and delight with a near constant dramatic change of cloud and light. I will want to capture this visual splendour and will not have a camera with me.

These are all truths.

I decided recently to dedicate myself to record, even if in some small manner, the sky-y thing that happens here on Dartmoor. For a week, I carried with me a camera at all times and took hundreds of photos of the sky. Sometimes, I was walking. More perilously, I was driving. At these times, if the light seemed just right, I would quickly pull over to any available lay-by, get out of the car and snap a picture.

More certainties: I am not a photographer. I have only my click and shoot camera or my phone. Both serve me well. These photos do not do the sky and its magic show any justice.

But, to quote Kate Bush, “I’m looking at the Big Sky.” Enjoy.

Dartmoor SkiesDartmoor SkiesDartmoor SkiesDartmoor SkiesDartmoor SkiesDartmoor Skies

Sometimes the fog descends, hiding all the tors.

Sometimes the fog descends, hiding all the tors.

And sometimes there are no clouds to be seen.

And sometimes there are no clouds to be seen.

Dartmoor Skies

A middle of the day break in the snow fall.

A middle of the day break in the snow fall.

Dartmoor Skies

Sunset

Sunset

Dartmoor Skies

Snowy clouds.

Snowy clouds.

Sunny with clouds.

Sunny with clouds.

A frosty dawn.

A frosty dawn.

A rainbow in the distance.

A rainbow in the distance.

We're looking at the big sky....

We’re looking at the big sky….

Rosie’s Big Adventure, The Sequel

When Roger and I met in the Canadian Arctic, we enjoyed the company of several fine people. Like any amazing adventure, you gain new friends and life changing experiences. And Greg has been part of all of that. Early on in our adventures at Crockern, Greg wrote me in an e-mail, “So let me get this right…..You were this girl living in Hoboken, New Jersey. You went on a trip to the Arctic. You met a guy from a group of men, who go wildlife spotting. You fell in love and moved to England, and now you have a house in bumfucknowhere!!! How absolutely brilliant!!! Bet you a million bucks you never thought your life would turn out like that!” (https://crockernfarm.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/dartmoo/)

Since our very first summer, Greg, his wife Anita, and their daughter Rosie, have come to visit for a day. Last year, I posted a photo blog of Rosie’s visit. (https://crockernfarm.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/rosies-big-adventure/) This past August, they came for their annual visit and Rosie immediately put herself into the role of living at Crockern.

At the energetic age of 3.5 years, Rosie led us all in a full day of exploring Crockern and the surrounding area. We took a walk up onto the Moors, got stuck in with some gardening and animal husbandry, walked Sam, fed chickens, looked for eggs, tended potatoes, and then waded in the river.

Again, Greg has provided a collection of photos, a day in the life of Rosie.

While we enjoy the easing into autumn with crisp morning air, earlier sunsets and the departure of the swallows and house martins, we are turning our attention to more projects inside. The downstairs is in the final stretch and we’ve ordered the bathroom fixtures. I can’t help but wonder how skilled Rosie might be with painting walls and laying tiles?

 

Three eggs and I've only just started hunting for them.

Three eggs and I’ve only just started hunting for them.

 

Feeding chickens with Sam keeping a watchful eye.

Feeding chickens with Sam keeping a watchful eye.

 

Tending to the vegetable garden.

Tending to the vegetable garden.

 

"Hey Dad, hurry up and lets get walking.  There's a lot to do today!"

“Hey Dad, hurry up and lets get walking. There’s a lot to do today!”

 

Rosie takes her Mom, Anita, up onto some huge granite boulders!

Rosie takes her Mom, Anita, up onto some huge granite boulders!

 

There are horses which need some carrots, too.

There are horses which need some carrots.

 

After a busy day, a feast!

A feast!

 

Relaxing and watching the birds after a long day.

Relaxing and watching the birds after a long day.

Night Skies, Chickens, and The Coming Rain

I remain uncertain where the month of September has gone, but the end of summer is here.  The days are shorter, the dawn chorus of birdsong has faded and the leaves are turning colour and beginning to carpet the ground.  Each morning opens with a cool, bright and misty start.  But before I load up the wood burner, shifting where I spend time in the house, I find myself reflecting on the beauty of this recent summer.  When our niece, a photographer, was here in August she spent many hours capturing the night sky, the birds, and the changing weather.  What follows are some of Charlotte’s photos.

The sun setting over the ridge.

The sun setting over the ridge.

This looks like a Ghost Busters sky!

This looks like a Ghost Busters sky!

Swirling Night Sky

Dizzy and my head is spinning.

Misty morning

Misty morning

Yummy wet morning grass.

Yummy wet morning grass.

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty...

I’m so pretty, oh so pretty…

Let me give that some thought.

Let me give that some thought.

Are you talking to me?

Are you talking to me?

Like a bird on a fence.

Like a bird on a fence.

Keeping watch and feeling the rain.

Keeping watch and feeling the rain.

Here comes the rain.

Here comes the rain.

I'm outta here.

I’m outta here.

Rain on the reeds.

Rain on the reeds.

Mushroom in the grass.

Mushroom in the grass.

The end of the summer flowers.

The end of the summer flowers.

Rain drops on seed heads.

Rain drops on seed heads.

To see more of Charlotte’s work, check out her web site:   charlottelevyphotography.co.uk

Rosie’s Big Adventure

Whether or not we’re ready, summer is beginning to ease into autumn.  Crisp morning air, earlier arriving sunsets and a bumper crop of late summer vegetables are just some of the signs.   We all know it too:  the swallows are organizing in preparation for their imminent departure south and our chickens are heading to bed before we encourage them to do so.  Just the other day, there was a discussion on the radio about when one should turn on one’s central heating.  Our own recent discussion on this point, is when will the plumber arrive to install our new boiler?

This turn in season is marked also by the drop in visitors, both to our house and along the footpath toward Wistman’s Woods.  Over the summer, we were abuzz with visits from friends and family.  There was a range of ages, and every one’s kid helped with walking Sam, feeding the chickens, putting out bird feeders and even working in the garden.  Our youngest visitor was Rosie.

When Roger and I met in the Canadian Arctic, we met several other fine people, including Greg.  He, his wife Anita, and their daughter Rosie returned again this summer for what is now an annual visit to Crockern.

Rosie, aged 2.5 years, spent a full day exploring Crockern and its surrounds.  After a stiff walk up on the Moors, she got stuck in with some gardening and animal husbandry.  She helped walk Sam, fed the chickens, and looked for eggs before turning her attentions to the garden.  Like anyone at that age, she is tireless and I’m not certain there were enough potatoes to keep her busy as it took four adults just to keep up!

Thanks to Greg, the following blog is a photo essay of Rosie’s big day out at Crockern.  As soon as she learns how to plaster and swing a hammer, we may have a few more projects requiring her assistance.  Then again, she’s very handy in the garden, so we might just leave her to that!

Meet Rosie and how she takes a walk on the moors.  She rides on her Dad's shoulders.

Meet Rosie and how she takes a walk on the moors. She rides on her Dad’s shoulders.

Taking care of Sam and showing him the river.

Taking care of Sam and showing him the river.

Feeding the chickens before looking for eggs.

Feeding the chickens before looking for eggs.

Finding Eggs!

Finding Eggs!

Learning how to find potatoes.

Learning how to find potatoes.

Rosie perfecting her digging technique.

Rosie perfecting her digging technique.

Taking inventory on the newly dug potatoes.

Taking inventory on the newly dug potatoes.

Rosie and the Onion

Selecting the perfect onion.

And when it's all said and done, who doesn't love a nap?

And when it’s all said and done, who doesn’t love a nap?

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Just when I thought that spring was around the corner, the cold moved in and decided to make itself comfortable.  We received a beautiful covering of snow three days ago.  Our first.  This storm caused the roads through Dartmoor to be closed, cutting us off for 24 hours.  Not a single person came up the track.  The clouds were low that day and visibility almost nil, so our venturing out was somewhat limited.  The whole scene had a sepia tone to it.

That was Friday.  On Saturday and Sunday, crowds of people from surrounding lower-lying areas that had received rain rather than snow arrived to go sledding, and give us headaches with their litter, noise and shocking inability to read signs (more than a few people blocked us in as they parked directly in front of our gate with its posted “no parking” message).

We have the place to ourselves again, so set out for a hike behind our house.  Drifts of snow abut tufts of ice-covered grass and rocks, dramatic skies and the climbs up to the tors combined to make one of the most beautiful winter scenes.   This week’s blog is a photo essay of our first snow at Crockern.  We are awaiting more of the fluffy white stuff tomorrow.

Crockern Farm

First snow in the morning toward the back gate.

Snow covered footpath sign to Wistman's Woods just behind our house.

Snow covered footpath sign to Wistman’s Woods just behind our house.

Looking south towards Crockern Farm.

Looking south towards Crockern Farm.

Chickens in the snow

One of the chickens having a go at her first snow.

Littaford  and Longaford Tors, Dartmoor

Roger on the way to Littaford and Longaford Tors.

Littaford Tor, Dartmoor

Littaford Tor

Icy Grass on top of the ridge looking toward Bellever, Dartmoor

Icy Grass on top of the ridge looking toward Bellever.

Littaford Tor in the snow and ice grass.

Littaford Tor in the snow and ice grass.

Littaford Tor, Dartmoor

More Littaford Tor

Dartmoor

Rocks, snow, what more do you need?

Dartmoor winter

Snow and clouds moving toward the vanishing point.

Sky, stone wall, snowy ground.

Sky, stone wall, snowy ground.

Roger and Sam on top of the ridge.

Roger and Sam on top of the ridge.

Longaford Tor with view (about 1.5 miles away) back to our house.

Higher White Tor with view (about 1.5 miles away) back to our house.

A silhouette of Sam, me and the top of Higher White Tor.

A silhouette of Sam, me and the top of Higher White Tor.

A lone tree just before Wistman's Woods.

A lone tree just before Wistman’s Woods.

Sheep in the snow.

Sheep in the snow.