Friday, January 29, 2010

A Sad Day...

Kes the Dog
1998 - January 27, 2010

It was with great sadness that we had to put Kes down on Wednesday. She had been quite sick since we came home from Europe and no longer had the energy to participate in farm chores or chase after the sheep like she used to. After taking her to the vet last week he told us that she likely had stomach cancer and that there was really nothing to do at that point, especially considering her age. Her stomach was full of fluid and she was having a hard time eating, while the rest of her body was getting thinner. We took her home at that point as she did not appear to be in any discomfort, just really tired.

Randy was able to take her one last time on the weekend as we were away visiting family on the weekend and we got to spend a couple more days with her in the early week, although she was too tired to even shake a paw (which had always been her favourite, as she loved human contact). By Wednesday we knew she was feeling very sick and had not eaten in a couple of days, so we felt the need to end her suffering.
I know many of you enjoyed reading her posts and I am sorry they had to end. She just had no energy at the end and couldn't think of new material, so she hadn't posted in a while. It is a bit lonely doing the chores now and once in a while we forget she is gone, but I guess that is part of the memory. We will miss Kes, but she will never be forgotten...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time to order

Well we have been away for so long that clearly there was a large stack of mail waiting for us upon our arrival back home. Included in this stack was a selection of wonderful seed catalogues.
I have to say that I really enjoy browsing through them and seeing all the interesting things that are available. I have been particularly intrigued by blue peas. I'm pretty sure that they will be on the list of things to order even if just for my own enjoyment (Ryan doesn't like peas) but i'm sure that a blue pea salad or something would be nice. We are a little slow on ordering and need to get that done this week while there is still seed available. I mean blue peas those have got to sell out fast.
Everything else is going well around the farm. The ducks are pretty dirty and have an un-pleasent smell about them (although I would never recommend smelling a duck close up anyway. This is more of a wafting oder). I would say that the sheep are looking nice and plump as well which is good. Rogue has started to grow thicker wool which makes him look a little nicer. He kind of looked bald before (not in a drastic way though). The sheep have also been enjoying their new salt lick which currently is just wedged between some bails of hay. You can tell they have been licking it because there are large marks smoothed away in it.

That's all for now!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

Well, we made it. After a short flight into Frankfurt on Saturday we found our hotel, a Best Western, and settled in for night. On Sunday we bummed around Frankfurt a bit, went to an optical illusion museum, which was really sketchy, but sort of cool and then just wandered around a bit for the rest of the day as we were both really tired and it was cold, wet and raining (hence the wet!).
Monday morning was an early rise at 6am (12am local time at home) because our flight left at 10:20 from Frankfurt to Detroit. The goal for Monday was to stay awake the entire day so as to minimize the effects of jet lag by forcing ourselves to adapt quicker to living in this time zone. Despite Amanda having a short nap on the airplane we both manged to stay awake on the flight by watching at least 3 movies each and filling in the gaps with other kinds of entertainment. Flight was uneventful and we had a safe landing in Detroit.
Detroit had a 4 hour layover until we could fly into Buffalo, and we had to go through customs there and through security again, even though we were already in the airport, but that is the way they do it over there and everything went smoothly. We even had a friendly customs agent who made jokes with us about having a honeymoon after 3 was awesome.
Eventually we made it to Buffalo and my parents arrived to drive us back to Canada. Canada customs was once again uneventful and we finally made it home at 8:30pmish after a very long day. The house was in good shape (thanks to Randy) and after reading a bit to settle our minds we crashed into bed for an amazing sleep in our own bed.
Everything on the farm end seems to be in order. Sheep and ducks are all quite happy and Kes was quite pleased to see us, although she may have more on that later (as I know there are some of you who love to read her posts, more than any others...go figure).
For now we are safe at home and will now have to get things rolling with our plans for farming. It is nearly the end of January and soon it will be spring and a very exciting time for us, so keep checking back and see how things are going.

P.S. Stuart, it is easier coming this way then it was going to Europe, but that is just my opinion. So there. :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

All in a Days Drive

Well after 250miles and 6 hours of driving we finally made it to Allison's future in-laws. It was a long day.
We began our day at 6:45am (way too early for vacation) finishing getting all of our stuff together as today was our last day at the cottage. We finally had the car loaded and the cottage clean by 9:00am and headed out the driveway one last time.
After 2 1/2 hours we made it to our first destination, New Hall Vineyard. It seems that instead of calling them wineries in the UK they are in fact called vineyards. The place looked a little run down and we couldn't find the entrance, but we had read a sign that said you should knock on the door if you were interested in purchasing. The outside of the house was a bit under construction and it looked kind of derilict, but we knocked anyway. We were met at the door by the husband and wife who told us tasting was around the corner of the house and in the basement...
We headed around and down the steps and it was a bit creepy, but we kept going anyway. The man opened the door and let us in to the dungeon... I mean the basement (sorry about that). It was a bit dark and a bit interesting and kind of awkward at first, but he poured us each a small, but rather full glass of wine and we sampled. Eventually, after some conversation things eased up a bit and we had a good conversation and I purchased a few bottles of wine. He even gave me a map of the vineyards around the UK and a book about all the vineyards in the UK and Ireland that I had hoped to buy. After I had paid he offered to show us around the winery which was in a barn out back and he was very friendly. The place certainly did not have a lot of "show" and presentation was apparently not really important but I (we) had a good time.
After New Hall Wines we headed off to Carters Vineyards. It took us about another hour or so to get there, despite an e-mail from them telling me they were not open. Their website had said they were not open for tastings, but were in fact open for sales and I decided to risk it anyway. I had responded to the email inquiring about this but was unable to check for a response this morning. Unfortunately they were in fact not open (or at least it seemed that way) and we headed off as quickly as we arrived.
After that stop we headed for our final winery, Chilford Wines where we had tried to stop the other day when we found it closed. We stopped for lunch along the way at a local pub and I finally tried a beer/ale but I still didn't like it. They were out of cider though.
We made it to Chilford Wines at 3:40 just 20 minutes before their reported closure only to find the wine store listed as closed again! This time we went up to the office (as this place is more than a winery) and asked and a lady said she could let us into the wine store. We went, and it looked as though not a soul had been in there in weeks (as indeed was the case). Unfortunately the lady who had offered to help us knew NOTHING about wine and confessed to not even drinking wine. We couldn't even taste the wine because if she opened a bottle it would stay open for a long time as not many were stopping in. I was disappointed I had not purchased more at New Hall Vineyards, but begrudgingly bought some wine there and Amanda and I headed off back to Allison's future in-laws.
Tomorrow morning we have an early start and then end up in Frankfurt by evening. We are quite tired of sleeping in other beds and very much look forward to going home to our own bed...Good Night.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Castle and a Rare Breeds Centre

Well today was a rainy day. It seems that every day since we got here there has been some sort of precipitation whether that be rain, snow or slush (which itself seems to be a form around here). But no matter we made it through our day anyway.
Our first visit was to Castle Rising, a very old and somewhat run down castle north of Kings Lynn. We were the only people there, which was really nice and with the aid of an audio guide (an orange telephone like thing you listened to every so often) we wandered around the castle and the grounds. Despite the fact that there were no exhibits and the castle was completely unfurnished we both loved it. It was truly the first castle we could go to in England where you could really just wander around it. Mind you the main floor in the great hall was gone, but you could basically walk anywhere you liked. We had quite a bit of fun wandering around the castle and managed to stay somewhat dry.
The other castle we had hoped to go to was further east of this, but we decided not to go because it was an extremely ruined castle with just a couple walls at ground level left standing and today was a very cold and wet day and we didn't think we would have fun.
For lunch we ate at the Black Horse Inn, which was in the same little town as Castle Rising as the man running the Castle had recommended it. It was good and Amanda and I both enjoyed some good old fish and chips.
From there we drove down to a Rare Breeds Farm/Centre. I had hoped that it would be more of a real working farm and that we could learn a bit about British farming, but it was more like a glorified petting zoo. It was interesting to see all the animals, and it was a good lesson on agri-tourism, but there was really not much to see in the way of farming. We did get to go in the pen with many of the animals, including sheep and goats, which was fun, but I was not impressed with the hay. It was very stalky with no broad leaf plants and didn't smell very sweet. But hay(hehe), what do I know.
Things are looking a bit sketch for the wineries tomorrow, but we will try anyway. Tonight is the last night in our cottage and tomorrow night we will be staying with Allison's future in-laws before heading back to the airport towards Germany.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Birds, Birds and more Birds

Well we had a bit of a quiet day today. Spent most of the day at our cottage bumming around, had lunch and then went to a water fowl sanctuary where we got to see many ducks and swans and got to watch them get fed. They really go crazy for all the food. It was a good time and we were there for a while and I think Amanda got some good pictures. We had a couple backwater roads that we drove on today because one of the main ones is closed for flood maintenace, and the drive was rather interesting.
Looks like we will have a quiet evening tonight and then we have the two busy days ahead of us and then back to Germany.

The Last Couple Days

Well we have been busy the last couple of days. After our adventure in Norwich, we spent the next afternoon in a small town between here and Cambridge called Ely. We had lunch at a little sandwich place and then visited another cathedral in the town. From the outside the cathedral was quite impressive and we were going to go in, but found that we could not get the door open! We figured that is was just another thing on our trip that was supposed to happen but didn't and we were a bit disappointed.
However, I managed to figure out that you had to turn the door latch to get it open. Now, I must say, we had tried this earlier and it had not worked, but it was after I had tried to push the door open which had jammed the latch. So eventually we figured it out. This cathedral would have been more impressive on a nicer day and with a tour but unfortunately we had missed the last tour and it was so dark outside it was hard to see anything in the cathedral with the minimal lighting they had. We did venture around a bit, but it would have been a better experience on a nicer day.
Yesterday Amanda and I made the trip to Cambridge to see the small university town. We had a nice walk around, ate at an amazing pub called the Anchor. I had a Magners Cider in a Magners glass, and when I asked the bartender after the meal if I could buy the glass he just gave it to me which was awesome. After lunch we wandered around and found a National Trust store (the National Trust owns and operates our cottage as well as many other properties throughout England and attempts to sustain many of the historical and environmental pieces that make England unique). National Trust has a real Monopoly version of their own and since Monopoly is one of our favourite games we purchased it. We had hoped to find it and felt lucky that we did.
After a bit of wandering and shopping Amanda and I went to see Avatar in 3D at the movie theatre. WOW. That is such a good movie and if you have a chance to see it in 3D, do it! Not only is the story amazing and awe inspiring, but the visuals are amazing and unlike I have ever seen. After the movie we headed home and read a bit before going to bed.
Today we will go see some ducks and other fowl and then hang around King's Lynn a bit. We are taking it easy today as we have a busy day tomorrow visiting some old castles and a farm and then Friday hopefully we can visit some wineries, although a couple of them have told me they are closed :( so that dream may not be a reality, but we shall see.
We are having loads of fun and are a bit sad that the vacation is over soon, although we are both looking forward to going home.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Travel to Norwich, Wines and a Pub!

Well yesterday we made our grand trip to Norwich. We never went on Friday as the weather was just too bad, but it was a nice day yesterday. Our first stop was for lunch at a nice pub with good food. I have decided that since we are in the UK and going to pubs, whenever I am at a pub I have to have either a beer or a cider. I havn't had any beer yet since I don't really like it, but I have been sampling from a wide array of ciders and most of them are quite good. I am particularly fond of Magner's, although Gaymans and Strongbo are also very good
After the pub we headed to the big cathedral in Norwich, but were more excited about seeing the castle after it. However the cathedral was absolutely amazing and we went on a guided tour with just the three of us and our guide, a very nice and enthusiastic elderly gentleman named Dave. We told him we only had 45min and he gave us a great tour in that time. Who would have ever known so much *interesting* history could be saved up in a 900 year old church.
After the cathedral we headed for the castle which was, in retrospect, a bit of a disappointment. Instead of being a cool castle you could walk through, it was really just one big room with some displays and a bit of a basement. It was okay, but in the end we regretted the short tour at the cathedral and wished we had spent longer there.
From the castle we headed to a kitchen store and then headed for home, dropped Allison off at her in-laws and Amanda and I shared a quiet evening together with supper and a movie. We discovered some old Harry Potter video cassettes here at the cottage and have been working through them in our spare time when we need a break.
Today the plan was to head towards Cambridge to see a winery and some vineyards. I cannot remember the name of the winery right now however. Our first stop was to see the vineyards and I got many pictures of them which made me happy and should give me some interesting things to discuss with Randy later on. Many of the vines are quite old (1972) and have very large and twisted trunks. Unfortunately there was no identification of what the vines were so I could not tell the difference.
After the vineyard we headed up to the winery to try and hopefully purchase some wines, but to my utter dismay they were closed despite listing on their website and at the end of their driveway that they were open today. I was very disappointed that I had driven over an hour to this winery to find they were closed, but there was nothing we could do about it so we headed off and had lunch (Amanda, Allison and myself) at a pub we found in Stuart's pub book (it was a pick of the pubs). It was really good and I would happily go there again. We might try for the winery again later on in the week and we might aim for a couple others, although they are a bit more of a distance away. We shall see.
Allison is spending the evening here and we have had a good time hanging out and thinking of playing games. Who knows what tomorrow shall bring, but it shall certainly be another adventure for another day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Driving in England!

We got a call from the National Trust last night telling us that our cottage in Wales was inaccessible because it was a drive straight up a hill for 3/4 of a mile on an unserviced road and then further up a hill on an unserviced driveway in the middle of nowhere. So that was never going to happen.
Well we have finally sorted out what we are going to able to do. As much of the northern part of England is locked up in snow we will staying at our current accommodations for another 6 days past what we were supposed to. The last day we are staying in England we have been invited to stay overnight at Allison's future in-laws as the cottage we are at is booked. We have the car until the day we leave on the 16th so we will always be able to get around.
It is a bit disappointing that we will not get to see Wales, the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland, but we do have a whole lifetime ahead of us and there will be plenty to see around here anyway. Changing our plans with the National Trust was very easy and we actually managed a significant refund because of the longer stay in a single place.
This is apparently the coldest winter in 29 years and the worst snow in 20 years. It really shows because the infrastructure for handling snow on the roads here is nowhere near what it is in Canada. Many schools have been closed for several days now and many counties have run out of grits (sand) and have no access to salt and some have even taken to digging up sand from their beaches to make road travel more bearable. I will admit that even after a few days the main roads have not been cleared off here which is a testament to how snow gets handled.
There are also 2 types of drivers here in the snow. Most people get really really slow and seem to have no idea how to drive, but others, typically the very few (compared with Canada) who have SUV's who drive really fast despite the weather conditions. I get stuck somewhere in the middle but usually end up following the really really slow people as I am never in a rush on vacation. It has basically snowed for at least a while every day since we came.
Lunch yesterday was fish and chips with Allison from a great little place with a very ecstatic asian lady serving the food who moved like the wind and was very inspiring. The portion of the chips was massive and that came with 2 pieces of fish. A great meal for an even better price. We really enjoyed it.
Last night we had supper with Allison's in-laws (I am tired of writing future, although typing about it takes more words than actually writing it once!) and it was a great time. They are some of the friendliest people we have met and made us feel very much at home. We enjoyed some wine and a wonderful supper and were even surprised with a turn-up of Stuart who was able to share supper with us.
Plans for today were to go to Norwich, but that remains to be seen as the weather there is terrible and according to the news they cannot get grits on the road for some reason. Thus it remains to be seen what shall happen!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two Down...Now What!

*this is an add-on to the blog below*

We have just been informed that our other cottage (the one we are supposed to go to in 2 days) is also inaccessible due to the weather. Now both our cottages (where we are to stay for the next 7 nights starting Saturday) are closed due to the weather. We have no idea what s going to happen next, but it should be interesting!

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

It sounds good if you sing it like it is Christmas!
It has really been snowing quite a bit here in England the last few days which has made travel a bit interesting although it pales in comparison to what we can get in Canada. Traffic gets really slow here when it snows and the car rental company didn't even supply us with a snow brush, only an ice scraper so I have to use my leather farm mittens to wipe off the car in the morning.
We have been informed that the last cottage we will be staying at near the Yorkshire Dales is currently inaccessible due to snow so we will have to call the National Trust (the organization that operates these cottages) to find a solution. Hopefully the snow can be cleared by then because it is one of the cottages we will be staying at that is on a working sheep farm! (insert excitement here)
We have been mostly relaxing, hanging out with Allison and doing some light cruising around the British countryside during our stay here in Wisbech (pronounced Wisbeach, everything here is pronounced funny). Yesterday we got a nice tour of King's Lynn and then Amanda and I went to the beach nearby (very, very cold) and then tried to find a castle, but it was closed and we found sheep instead, which we took pictures of. They were eating brussel sprouts.
It gets dark here very early, around 4pm and so we tend to spend our evenings at our little cottage watching something on tv and just relaxing with supper.
Today we will be doing some stuff (who knows yet) in the afternoon and then having supper with Allison's future in-laws, by ourselves, as neither Allison nor Stuart will be there because of work. We are told they are very friendly so we are looking forward to meeting them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Going Strong in Wisbech

Well we made it to Wisbech a couple of days ago, but we no longer have consistent access to the internet so blogs might come and go from here on out.
Just before we left London we went for a ride on the London Eye. It was a lot of fun, but one cool thing that happened is that on the bubble with us was Gary Dourdan! That doesn't sound impressive, but he is the actor that plays Warrick on CSI. Amanda and I never went up to him to talk to him, partially because we didn't want to bug him and partially because we are both shy, but we did snap some photos of him when we thought he wasn't looking. It was awesome.
On the 4th we headed back to the airport to pick up our rental car. Everything was going fairly smooth until it was time to start driving. It took a bit of getting used to, driving on the left side of the road and once I ground the curb because I am not used to how the road looks from that side of the car. Roundabouts are everywhere and take some getting used to for driving. I basically drive it like I stole it and get is fun! By now I am used to driving on the opposite side. It still gets me once in a while, but it is more or less okay.
Finding our cottage in the town of Wisbech was hard. Turns out construction crews were doing work in front of the entrance when we arrived at night which is why we couldn't find it. We eventually found it after an hour, but it was a bit frustrating. The cottage is really nice and we will show you all photos when we get home, but we are happy we got this place.
We got to see Allison yesterday (Amanda's cousin) as well as today and will get to see her all day on Friday. She is only a few miles away in a town called Kings Lynn so it is easy to get there.
Dinner times are hard to figure out. Most places close after lunch and don't re-open until 6:30 or 7:00pm for supper. Last night we tried to make taco salad for supper as we have a kitchen, but it was a total disaster. It is hard to find the same ingredients here as we can get at home and we ended up making nachos and cheese with some really strong goats cheese which was interesting to say the least.
Much more has been happening but I cannot remember it all and I must get going. I hope that everyone is having fun at home and we look forward to seeing you all again in a couple weeks.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

London England (brrrr)

Well yesterday we safely arrived in London. We made our way to the airport in the morning for a flight that was leaving Frankfurt at about 2:30. Our flight was uneventful, until we landed. It seems the doors on the walkway thing they move around outside would not open so we had to get out of the plane using rolling stairs. It was fun. Customs was easy and eventually we figured out where to go to get the trains.
I managed to figure out that where we had originally been told to go for our hotel (all we had was an address) was wrong before we made it onto the trains and I thought I had it figured out how to get there. Unfortunately my map only went down so far, but I was counting on the hotel being in a certain place.
The subway ride to the Waterloo station took quite a while, but the airport is quite a ways away from the city centre. I managed to get a fix of our position on the map and we headed off. Well after 45 minutes of walking with our heavy packs as well as a knapsack each we finally found the hotel. It seems Albert Embankment went a little further than I thought and we had to walk quite a ways. By the time we arrived we were both quite cold and tired and probably looked a bit rough.
As it was quite late by the time we finally made it all we managed to do last night was eat some supper at the restaurant downstairs and then try to watch a movie on television. We had rented "Over the Hedge" a Disney movie of sorts for only 1 pound, but Amanda fell asleep 20 minutes into it so I turned it off and we went to bed.
One note on the hotel. It is a really fancy hotel that Amanda tells me costs 300pounds/night (on a sign downstairs) but we got it for a really great deal apparently and it is quite nice although I would never pay 300pounds a night for a room like this.
We woke up this morning, had breakfast and headed out. We spent most of our day wandering around and somehow made it to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and a bunch of other place. I got to stand beside a royal guard (not the black hatted ones) and Amanda took a photo of us having a contest to see who could look more solemn.
We also found tickets today for Wicked the musical from a half-priced place. We paid full price but got cheaper tickets and were lucky we found some as there seemed to be none anywhere else. We plan on riding the London eye tonight as well as going to see the show.
London has been great so-far and it has certainly been easier with everything in english. We are having a great time and are looking forward to the rest of the trip as this is really only the beginning.