2010: A mixed year

The year started badly, with Dad in hospital and two foot of snow on the ground, making driving very difficult. I was crocheting a small throw at the time, and finished it and started another whilst sitting at this bedside over the next few months.

Once Dad came out of hospital, I spent a lot of time each day round at his bungalow and had to have something to do with my hands, so I knitted a shrug from Noro sock yarn in a complicated pattern. It took three months of sitting with Dad knitting, and weekly Knit and Natter meetings, to finish the shrug. There followed various hats, scarves, mittens, crocheted squares for a yet-unfinished cushion cover, and teapot cosies. As soon as one item was finished the next was started, I could not sit for one evening without yarn in my hands. Much of my creative output was given away as presents, some I wore myself, the rest is sitting in a drawer awaiting its time.

In July, our neighbour gave us four fleeces from his small flock of Hebridean Black sheep, as I had expressed an interest in learning to spin. I washed the fleeces and left them to dry whilst I learned how to use a drop spindle on some bought fibre; I think I am going to enjoy this new hobby!

As well as yarn crafts, I also love cooking. In January, Paul and I did a home baking course at The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite, and learned to bake great bread. Our previous attempts had frequently been disappointing, resulting in solid texture and hard crust. This course led to bread baking every couple of weeks at home and increasing confidence. The long slow method of resting interspersed with quick bouts of kneading seems to suit us and gives excellent results.

Summer 2010 saw a huge crop of raspberries from our three rows of canes. We were picking 3 or 4 kilos at a time; at one point we were having to pick every evening to keep up with the ripening rate. Most of the fruit we froze but about ten kilos were made into jam. And what jam it was! Richly coloured, fragrant, exceptional flavour. We made over forty jars, some of it mixed with our first decent redcurrant crop to give an interesting kick.

But other areas of the produce crop were less successful. A combination of bad summer weather, full-time working and daily visits to see Dad in hospital (again) mean that gardening took a back seat, and peas, beans, sweetcorn and salad leaves were neglected and left until it was too late to harvest. Much of the year’s crop was lost when October came, the only vegetables we were able to save were potatoes and half the onions. Even the tomatoes in the greenhouse suffered from neglect and gave us enough for only a few salads. It was very disheartening to lose so much.

Dad spent months in hospital, on and off. First he was in Barnsley General, where he was turned from an independent feisty old man into a skeleton unable to walk or do anything for himself; they nearly killed him, and then complained that he could not go home because he was too frail to cope! He went home anyway, and with the help of social services and daily carer visits, he gradually regained some of his strength and his feistiness, but he never regained the strength in his legs, lost by laying in a hospital bed for two months with no physiotherapy. By the time I was able to organise physio visits, it was too late to have any effect and he remained chair-ridden. His inability to walk more than a few steps meant that he fell frequently. I was not strong enough to lift him on my own, and had to call on my OH or on neighbours to help. The carers, who came four times a day to wash, dress, feed and put him to bed, were very good, but they were not able to lift him off the floor either because they would have hurt themselves, so the ambulance service was called frequently to assist. I spent many evenings waiting with him for an ambulance, or, having received a call at work to say they had taken him into hospital, waiting in A&E while they assessed his medical condition. In early August, he fell between the bed and the commode early one morning, hitting his ribs on the arm of the commode; the ambulance was called again, and because he also had the beginnings of a chest infection, they took him into Huddersfield hospital. He never saw his home again, and died a month later of pneumonia. It was a sad end to a full and largely healthy life.

In early October, we finally got some rescue hens, ex-barn, from the British Hen Welfare Trust. They were scraggy featherless things, bewildered by sunshine and grass, but we made them welcome in a coop and run of their own, and they soon developed individual personalities. Sadly one died within 2 weeks, probably because she failed to eat and drink, despite our best efforts. She was the only one who did not like coming out of the coop, so I fear she just couldn’t adjust to freedom. It happened while we were away on holiday and our poor neighbour had to deal with Enid’s untimely death.

The year trundled on, I continued to work travelling stupid distances each day, the vegetable garden went into a winter coma, and then the snow arrived weeks earlier than last year. It was very very cold for weeks, and I feared that the rescue hens would succumb to the cold. I covered their house and nestboxes with a thick layer of old towels and blankets, put warm water in their coop and outside, and cleared the run so that they could get to the grass. They all seemed fine, surprised at the cold wet stuff, but otherwise totally nonplused at the whole experience!

So in summary, a mixed year. Two deaths, snow and cold, warmth and good friendship, few vegetables but huge quantities of fruit, a new hobby started and an old hobby revived and enhanced. I wonder what 2011 will bring.

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