Tuesday, 12 June 2012

More work!

Sunday afternoon we were offered another piece of allotment. Truth is we did ask and have been watching a few, but this is one we would rather it not have been. Why? Well so many are neglected because people can't be bothered but this one the chap became seriously ill over winter and it is now too much for him. The one further up the picture is just plain not looked after. Anyway, someone has kindly weedkillered most of it (about 10 days ago) except a spot with some flowering leeks in. So the challenge is to get it producing so late in the planting season.
So yesterday I took a couple of hours to make a start and get the weed cleared and some digging done. Unfortunately rain came in before I got very far but, leaving a path (a sort of zone to prevent disputes really) I started. and although I didn't get very far through the heap of weeds grew rapidly.
Although 'roundup' was used it surprised me that under the top coat of dead weeds there was still so much life! Nothing wrong with a spade to shift weeds though.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Frosts are coming again!

The weather forecast has temperatures, overnight, of 3 tomorrow, 1 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday so we can expect frost. Most things will stand a ground frost at the moment but not potatoes, particularly first earlies so today an unscheduled trip to the allotment was in order. Rain was scheduled so I quickly put a cover over the first earlies and the rest were all hoed up to cover the growing points - it won't be long before they poke themselves out again. I also managed to JUST finish digging the ground for the maincrops before the rain started in a very serious manner. It was then time to bold for the car and adjourn to the gym. Hopefully maincrops can go in next week.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Porch - more slow progress

Because of the weather I have not been able to get out much this week. We did go to B&Q and buy the window furniture for the porch (why is it called furniture please someone?). I managed to get it all fitted without too much grief - much to my surprise. I had expected to have problems getting the latch pins in the right places but with care it all worked.

Before any observant people tell me that the latches are the wrong way round... I know that, you know that but the wife wanted them this way so please tell her!
I also managed to get a little more plastering done, enough to finish the bag I was given from Freecycle and enough to get me ready  to put a 'one coat' on the ceiling... well half of it anyway.

When the plastering is done then it will be time to consider some painting, but plater drips make painting a little time wasting just yet.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Allotment before the rain comes.

The forecast suggests that in the next five days we will get a month's rain. They don't seem to say what month though. August would be good! But I suspect not as it amounts to about 60mm or 2.3 inches in English.

Having cut Granddad's grass today as well has planted his row of Alderman peas, I decided it was time to do mine.

I slipped down there for an hour today before the dreaded rain arrives because it may be some time before the ground is drive enough to dig after it does. I dug a small strip but I also planted a couple of 'weeds' from Granddad's garden - two gooseberry bushes that had self set.

I also moved 2 holly bushes from our own garden. Apart from deterring intruders from climbing the allotment fences I have used holly leaves to protect peas and beans. After planting the seed simply scatter the leaves on top where the mice would dig. It appears to work for me after having lost some to the little blighters and doing this after replanting. I didn't make this up, I heard it somewhere so thought I would give it a go.

Apart from that I also managed to find time to pick our first radishes of the season.

Now to hope the forecasters are wrong.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Dinner at Haddon Hall and NOTHING to eat

Today The Tudor Group (They are also on Facebook) prepared dinner at Haddon Hall. Seems like a small thing, but as their name implies, they do things the Tudor way. No gas ovens, running hot water, electric mixers, food blenders but PLENTY of muscle.

It was fascinating to see and to talk to the people involved about the way they believe things were done. But I did say believe. Do you know that no-one wrote down whether they used a funnel (made for horn or made from wood or anything else) to stuff sausages? Well of course they wouldn't. They did these things daily and everyone knew how things were done. Except us of course. We are left guessing. But they try to make things work and if it works they may try an alternate method to see if they COULD have had the technology to do it more efficiently. But sometimes the first method proves to be the best. In preparing marchpane from boiled almonds, if you chop them with a knife before pounding in a pestle then you are bound to save effort... but if you just crush them in the pestle you get a better result and a better control of the texture.

For their recipes and dress and customs and table manners they research extensively and then work to fill in the gaps. While they have featured several times in various TV programs about history they are a delight to see and more importantly to speak to and ask questions of.

If you get the chance do go and see them. I should warn you though that they favour Haddon Hall as one of the most important Tudor buildings in the UK.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The newly born #ChipLitFest

We heard of Chipping Norton organising a literary festival over twitter. Such events deserve to be encouraged and so re-tweets were the order of the day and as a result my wife won a golden ticket. With this ticket she had free reign to attend as many events as she wanted and also had access to the green room.

The first I heard was 'How far is Chipping Norton?'.
'About 100 miles' I replied, 'Why?'

Oh dear... With family and pets and other stuff it's difficult to to just drop everything and take a weekend away so some deep planning was in order.

After discussions with our daughter it was decided we would do just 2 events on the Saturday. One was "Making a Living without any Serious Work" and the other was "How to break into freelance writing". With just these 2 events chosen we could take Dylan to the in-laws in the morning, drive leisurely to Chipping Norton and perhaps take in a little of the ambience and then return home collecting a very licky Dyl on the way. Regular readers will know of Dylan who really should get some blogging done! These events were also chosen because our daughter is at that age where she is expected to know what she wants to do and children of her age never can be reasonably expected to. She does write very well though - but I'm partisan so feel free to make your own mind up HERE - and she expressed positive interest in these two.

Chipping Norton seems to exist in a spatial anomaly. Traffic is slow, unhurried and polite - just the way traffic never is. The streets are olde worlde, eclectic and can't fit in the space they occupy. The people are slow and unhurried or rushing - nothing in between. And their dress seems to span the last 50 years yet doesn't look out of place. It is a quiet little town with an atmosphere.

The second event was scheduled to finish on the minute when the second event started so it would be a rush to get across even this small town. When they emerged, just a little early, from the first event smiles seemed to be the order of the day. (I had no interest in either event and planned to explore other things around the town, and in fact the town itself) Unfortunately the heavens decided to demonstrate their capabilities at almost that point so I made a dash for the town hall while they just made it indoors to the second event.

The town hall was the centre for the non-event items of the festival - publishers, book stalls and other related promotional stands. While the town hall is an old and interesting building, it is not the largest of buildings and so there was not a lot in there but what there was rather limited in space and the room felt a little like a jumble sale rather than a literary festival - sorry chaps! I am sure that the festival is going to demonstrate credibility to publishers this year and be better supported next year so maybe more space will be given over to these things which, for me, are an important part of such festivals as Hay and Edinburgh - think big is my motto.

The second event was rather cramped in its venue but equally enjoyed by both wife and daughter and daughter came away with something. You are never sure what it is you get... confidence, understanding?

We never did find the green room! Mind, we had no 'golden ticket' to identify ourselves at the green room had we found it!

A good first year but next time perhaps more ambition and with everything learnt from this year a bigger and better festival?

But chaps... please leave a gap between events so people can get between them in the Chipping Norton fashion of relaxed and unhurried?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Allotment update

The fruit trees that were left by the previous plot holder are wll in flower bud - except the plum tree. The Pear is going to be magnificent again

The overwintering onions are doing very well as well - now they have been weeded a bit!

The rhubarb we got from Freecycle is doing very well indeed.
The Purple Sprouting Broccoli has produced an excellent crop this year too.
The first Broad Beans are well in flower now. These were set in January straight into the ground and have survived the weather. But they were protected by a cloche.
And this rhubarb was a birthday present from my Mother and Father in-law.
To break a bit of the wind I am using some pieces left by the previous plot holder to make a screen.
But today, apart from weeding, We have put the first crops into the polytunnel. We have also put them under a 'tent' of fleece in case of cold weather. 2 Money Maker tomatoes and 1 Telepathy Cucumber. We are hoping to get early crops. The mess of pipes is a self-watering system hooked up to a water butt, fed from the shed roof.

Also had to raise the netting on Feltham First peas as the plants are getting too big and starting to grow through the netting.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Shopping should not be frustrating and depressive

When our second child was born we switched to Sainsburys because it felt a lot more relaxed a shopping experience. Wider isles, quieter,  brighter, shorter queues at the checkout etc. OK it was probably a little more expensive and we certainly bought more items because we weren't in a rush to get out.

Today we went shopping for the first time in a fortnight after a holiday and we see new freezers.. You know? The kind that short people can't reach the top shelf of and that applies to so many of the elderly. It's a great way to frustrate them - and a lot of their customers are elderly. I'm not tall and I'm not short either and I have to stretch!

Apart from that some of the things on top of the freezers have been moved to shelves so... more shelves... so narrower isles... one of the reasons we switched. The number of near collisions today was frustrating and being hit with a trolley today was a first for me! The store now feels darker and less welcoming.

Couple this with a slower checkout process than when we started using Sainsburys and the reasons for continuing to shop there start to disappear.

Now... a year ago they had a 'Basics' swiss roll for 13p, it's now 45p - that's a 346% increase. What is inflation running at please someone? And apples get more expensive every week! Hang on... we've all heard how the big supermarkets tell the farmers what they will pay for this years crop and that was decided ages ago so how come... OF COURSE! They need to make X amount of profit in fruit and veg and so with less stock they need to increase their profit margin! By the way that is accountancy speak for 'fleece the punter'. These increases are typical and get worse every week.

A couple of years ago there was a shortage of tomatoes and so many prices went up. After a couple of good seasons the price has managed to stay up. Well done Sainsburys.

Enough is Enough.. we are walking!

PS  A facebook friend has just pointed out another cunning price increase method... The number of slices of ham and such like drops periodically while the price stays about the same. Drop a six pack to five and see the size of the price increase. Or cut the slices thinner... another one. Not just meats though... elsewhere in store too. 

Friday, 30 March 2012

Hard Work On The Plot

It's been a busy week on the allotment and I have planted both the Charlotte and Kestrel early potatoes. But I've also finished on the outside of the lean-to and been digging ready for more planting.

This photo is particularly interesting as it show The Worker (me) in the background removing weed and digging, while here in the foreground is the boot (at rest) of my wife and my helpless mate looks on!

Ah well, it's a hard life for some.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Lean-To (Project X)

Last year I constructed the lean-to on the shed from the remnants of the destroyed polytunnel. Sadly the materials were still not really up to the job so it's time to try again with better materials.

Yesterday I removed the old lean-to, cleared the area, found the new one was actually two feet larger rather than the one foot I had thought, produced a levelish base of sorts and started construction.
Today I finished the construction by adding more cross struts and finishing the roof and sank some ground anchors (it's a very windy site). I am reusing the door from the old one and the roof is finished from materials reclaimed from the old one as well.

Next, and probably the trickiest, is to work out how to get the polythene sheeting to fit the taller and wider tunnel than we had planned when we started. Still I'm always up for a challenge!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Project X

 Project X is my plan to build a full scale working model of a nuclear reactor...  But first I am building the lean-to greenhouse that will grow tomatoes (and stuff) from the waste heat (or from the sun if I never complete the full scope of Project X). I plan of testing the greenhouse part, extensively, by first running it a few seasons against the side of the shed on the allotment.

So today Dylan, my ever faithful helper, and I set about constructing it. Made entirely from reclaimed wood I had already sawn it into approximate lengths and regular widths and it was time to do the detail. Dylan watched on and consulted on Health and Safety and throughout the day I incurred not one single cut to my hands - that is almost a first so my thanks to Dylan for his help with that.

I Still found I was short of quite a few pieces as I modified the design as I felt the strengths and weaknesses of the design. I have a couple of pieces left to cut and then to paint the whole thing with wood preserver before labelling all the parts, dismantling and taking to the allotment for assembly in it's next location. I am planning of cutting polythene sheet to fit each side and use a further wooden strip over each edge to secure the polythene in place. I shall also be sinking bars into the ground at each of the corners and, using coachbolts, bolt the corners to the ground against wind - of which we get a lot!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Crazy Times

No matter how early I start the planting season it seems that I am always behind! I suppose it's because so many things need planting at the same time so everything has to happen together which clearly they can't. But now the season has started in earnest regardless.

Wednesday 8th March 2012
   Planted some rhubarb that was donated to us on Freecycle and started digging for potatoes. Also planted some kale.

Saturday 10th March 2012
   Planted Swift first early potatoes, kale that had been started earlier in the greenhouse, broad beans from pots that were sprouting nicely and a row of carrot seed. Also carried on digging for peas, parsnips and the next batch of potatoes. I came to get the next batches of potatoes for chitting and found that keeping them in the dark was a big mistake - the chits were bolting looking for the light. They now need delicate handling and planting deeper!

Sunday 11th March 2012
    Carried on digging for potatoes - perhaps we are giving over too much ground to potatoes (100 tubers in all) but we will see. This is the first year we have ever grown them. I also planted out Feltham First peas started in trays and parsnip seed and a few more kale. I also started some boltardy beetroot and alderman peas. I suspect we have too much kale though.

Monday 12th March 2012
   Didn't get to the allotment today, instead I reduced the mountain ash in front of the house gathering long lengths of wood for bean poles and quite a few more pea sticks. I plan on trying a new way of supporting the beans this year which will hopefully be more robust than last year on our windy spot. I also found the polytunnel I put up in a hurry last spring was not doing so well, but I already have started to construct a replacement.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The old ones...

Saturday.. Horse riding in the afternoon so we decide to go see the in-laws for a brief visit in the morning to make sure that they are OK, it having been very cold. I phoned Friday night to see if they had got out shopping and they hadn't, not because of the weather but because the nurse had phoned from the surgery and she was coming round for blood samples. I told Granddad that we were going to seen them and if there was anything they needed then to give us a call before we set out. "What time are you coming?" "Elevenish" "OK, we'll call before then". Saturday morning and the phone goes. It's Grandma. "Are you coming over?". Well Granddad is NOT senile in anyway at all so what was this about? "What are you coming over for?". I explained and was there anything they needed. "No".

I relayed this rather weird phone call to Wifey... "They want us to take them shopping, I'll bet"

We arrive and Wifey asks them "Do you want us to take you shopping?". Coats and boots appear as if by magic and leaving Dylan and Second Only Child minding the house we go. They are cunning and knew exactly what we had suggested but didn't like to ask.

Grandma, whose mobility is very limited, grabs a shopping trolley and is off like a rabbit from the traps. Both are over 90 now and although their mobility is limited they refuse to use wheelchairs or motorised scooters of any sort, in fact at the hospital recently the surgeon asked Granddad if he wanted a wheelchair and he said "Not for a good few years yet!".

Their weekly shopping trip is the only time they actually leave the house and garden and so they hadn't seen the snow outside - and in fact they didn't realise that they were about the only ones with any left! Second Only Child had insisted we keep Dylan in the car while she first footed the lawns. I'm not sure which is the bigger kid because Dylan immediately set about 'getting' everywhere she had missed! (It's not just people then?)

I was surprised how quickly they shopped but there was still tension about being 'late' for lunch before riding.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Technology Rant!

I have been married for nearly 34 years and really feel like my mother and father in-law are true family. Problem is though that they are 91 and 92 years old. OK, a good age and family and I don't really resent going and fixing a broken door lock, a sticking tap, repairing a broken bird table, cleaning a washing machine filter, fixing the outdoor security lights and updating my list of jobs to do next time I go over for them all in one day. They are nice people and have been good to us and our children over the years.

Granddad, as we call him, is very much playing with a full deck of cards and does Sudoku puzzles every week, while Grandma can retreat into her own world for a while but, if bullied, also can play with a full deck.  Problem is that while their mental capacity is still there their bodies are starting to let them  down. Hearing starts to fail, strength goes down hill, eyesight deteriorates and co-ordination fails too.

So what has this to do with technology? Well tonight I drove 15 miles, pressed 1 button twice and then returned home! And why?

They have recently upgraded their TV to a 38inch digital set because (a) digital is now a must and (b) because at 38inches Granddad can once again see and enjoy his television. These new TV's are all singing all dancing and designed by the younger adults in society taking into consideration what they see as 'workable' and 'convenient'. Problem is we have an ageing population and while 90+ is the top end of that population there will be more of them over the years.

"It says 'no signal' " I was told. I couldn't believe that the transmitter was out so went expecting it to be a usage problem. I wasn't wrong - he had caught a button that had switched the TV to AVC1 and off the aerial. So why couldn't he fix it himself? Well... you call up the menu and it stays for a relatively short time - not enough to move your focus to the handset, search for a button, move your focus back to the screen find where you are supposed to be and start doing it. Not when you are 90+!

This happened before and I tried to talk him through it on the phone and then went to do it for him. I got there and he was reduced to tears that he couldn't do it himself!

It would be so easy to:-

After power off ALWAYS bring the set back to the aerial


Leave the menus on the screen permanently until turned off again


Put more buttons on the handset so the switch to the aerial source is one button to press


All of the above

Instead our elder generation is reduced to losing their dignity because no-one considers them at the design stage.

Thanks LG I love you a lot! But don't expect a Christmas card.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Porch's Progress

In bits and pieces the porch has advanced. It starts to look complete but is anything but!

In spring the outside will need rendering - no thoughts yet on the actual finish it will get though. I have never done rendering before so the actual finish may not be what I had planned on doing anyway!

Painting of the woodwork is needed - both inside and out, but because I am using recycled windows there is putty to replace, paint to scrape and primer to apply, so it won't be a quick and easy job.

But window catches and latches would be nice! at the moment they are all fixed shut. The next job I need to do though is to plasterboard the inside to start to add a nicer finish inside. Then, of course, window sills need to be made. Both of these I have been given the materials for already so Thank You Freegle!