The Very Hungry Caterpillar

July 17, 2009


Something’s been busy in my garden (and it’s not me)

I think it may be this chap. And his many friends…

This is the downside of butterflies, I suppose. But it would be nice to know what butterfly it’s going to grow up into before I take any drastic action. After all, it’s all biodiversity, and I didn’t like those plants very much anyway. I’ve tried looking here, but to no avail. Any ideas?*

*Some people might call this lazy blogging. I prefer to think of it as crowdsourcing.

I shall Call it Winston

July 16, 2009

There are days when cycling suddenly becomes effortless: flying up hills that you could only previously crawl up, speeding along in the biggest gear. You think, in your vanity, that it is you – your new exercise regime, your newly trim figure, your increasing fitness. Or perhaps it is your shiny new bike, or even this piece of freshly laid shiny new road before you. Whatever it might be, you wing along with a song in your heart, faster and further than you have ever gone before.

And then you turn around to go home, and discover that it was, in fact, a tail wind.

And now with Pictures

July 14, 2009

I’ve been cycling round the country looking at the dykes with a fresh eye these last two weeks. I knew there was an art to walling, but what I hadn’t realised was that there’s a fairly complex internal structure to a drystone dyke – it’s not just a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle in which each stone has to be placed just so. This makes it easier, in a way; the real skill is the speed with which the experts can do it, and their ability to see just the right stone for the gap in hand. (I did ask the guy teaching us if he played much Tetris but he just looked blank. I’m guessing he doesn’t get much fun out of doing jigsaws either).

Anyway, I promised you an explanation, so here’s what we did:
First demolish your wall. Note that on my side of the wall, the stones are neatly piled up by type as instructed. Whereas on the other side of the wall, there’s a great big pile of rocks

The first full course of doubles done.
The through stones in, half way up the wall.
Almost ready to put the covers on. This shows the structure of the wall really nicely
The copings on, and filling in all the little gaps to make sure it’s solid. Strange how there’s always some stone left over …
Et voila. Six volunteers and one expert have done as much wall in one day as the expert alone could probably have done unaided in about an hour. But a thing of beauty and a joy forever* nonetheless.

You can find out more here.

*or for somewhere between five and 150 years, depending on how well we did, anyway

This Time it’s Personal

July 13, 2009

bird_poo‘You know, those birds aren’t sitting on the wire and crapping on the car,’ the other half said.

‘No?’ I asked, a little sceptical.

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re flying about three feet over the car, slowing right down to just above stalling speed, taking careful aim…

‘And then they’re crapping on the car.’

Madonna comes to Bigtown

July 10, 2009
Wanted - Bigtown - baby girl

Wanted - Bigtown - baby girl

Although frankly, you’d have thought she’d have the cot and stuff already.

Half-Yearly Report…

July 9, 2009


I am delighted to report that the broad bean profit centre of the vegetable enterprise has just gone into profit.

And it really was delicious.

More Bird Brains

July 8, 2009

The conjunction of a faster-than-normal bike and the proliferation of slower-than-normal crap baby birds may be a bit of a problem. I was hurrying home in the rain the other day, in an attempt to get there before I was utterly and entirely soaked through* while a baby blackbird crouched in the road ahead of me trying to decide whether to fly left or right to get away from the scary shiny thing approaching it at speed. At the last possible moment, it chose wrongly. It was only due to the efficiency of my shiny new brakes that there wasn’t julienned baby blackbird all over the road. I do wish they wouldn’t do that. I’d hate to get feathers on my shiny new wheels

Don’t worry, slow cycling will recommence when the novelty wears off (and when these guys stop setting such a bad example – I’m easily led). Until then I’ll continue to set land-speed records for the fetching of a newspaper from Papershop Village (senior class), and the baby birds will just have to learn how to get out of the way. Fifty minutes to beat, and counting.

*I failed


July 7, 2009

Down in Papershop Village this afternoon, papershop bloke was having trouble with his till. The customer before me had had to leave the shop in a hurry with half of her shopping rung up. ‘Her little boy needed a wee right now,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how long she’ll be before she’s back so I’m setting her shopping aside.’

‘There’s something you wouldn’t get in Tesco,’ I said.

‘True,’ he said. ‘And I’ll tell you what else…’ Some time back, it seems, another mother had been in with her young children who were busy choosing their sweets. All of a sudden he heard the mother call from a corner of the shop ‘George, No!’ followed by ‘Er, can I have a mop?’ Apparently the little boy was in the process of being toilet trained and – finding himself caught short – was relieving himself on the pile of logs there for sale as firewood. ‘Surprisingly large puddle for a little chap,’ he said. ‘But that’s definitely not something you get in Tesco.’

‘No,’ I agreed. And I left, wondering if this didn’t go some way towards explaining the trouble I have starting fires.

Blowing a Raspberry

July 6, 2009

We were out for a walk yesterday evening. When we first arrived here we went for a walk most evenings if it was fine, but it’s a habit we’ve got out of recently. In fact it’s worse than that, it’s a habit that we’ve replaced with another: the evening ritual of drinks and nibbles on the sofa before supper. Needless to say, there’s only one way that can end, and that’s with the pair of us having to be winched out of the house through the window because we can no longer be squeezed out through the door. So, at my suggestion, we dragged ourselves away from the nibbles last night and set off to check the level of the water in the ford*

We had not gone far before we spotted the first wild raspberry glowing bright red among the leaves of the hedgerow (ten days earlier, it would appear, than last year). These really are delicious, much sweeter and more fragrant than commercially grown ones with almost a vanilla flavour (that’s vanilla as in ‘tasting like vanilla’ not vanilla as in ‘not tasting like anything’ – ice cream manufacturers please take note). They don’t grow as thickly as blackberries do, and there’s no question of taking any home, or even them lasting long enough on the bush to be photographed for posterity – to see one is to eat one, and then to start hunting around for the next.

The discovery that there were snacks on this walk considerably cheered up the other half at the time. But I suspect that it may also have defeated the object of the whole exercise. I wonder just how thinly spread the raspberries would have to be for the walk to be calorifically neutral…

*Dry as a bone, since you ask.


July 5, 2009
teeny weeny baby broad beans

teeny weeny baby broad beans

I have been spending the last few days anxiously groping my broad beans. Not out of any wierd fetish – at least I don’t think so – but on my mother’s instructions not to pick the pods until I could actually feel the beans inside them. This is harder than it sounds, like so many of my mother’s instructions (‘stop hanging on the small muscles of your back!’) and after a while I was beginning to wonder whether I’d end up with nothing but bruised pods with flattened beans inside them. And besides, the slugs had already started on the biggest ones without me, which wasn’t the point at all. So I decided they were ready and picked and podded a handful for our supper tonight. The result almost – if you squint a bit – covers the bottom of a bowl.

All the same, I think my broad-bean-groping techniques might need a little work. The biggest were okay, but the smallest ones were disconcertingly … well, foetus-like is the only way I can describe them. However, I’m sure they’ll be delicious, and if they’re not you know I’m going to deny it anyway. For home grown vegetables always taste delicious; that’s the rule.