August 30, 2014

You know, I did wake up this morning wondering if I shouldn’t just have a quick glance at the village show schedule to see if there wasn’t something I could enter after all (we’d have absolutely walked last year’s novelty salt and pepper set wildcard, with our elaborate French feathered clockwork cruets on wheels), but I’d had an early start yesterday and by the time I was up and coffeed and showered and breakfasted this morning, let alone in a fit state to consider village show entries, I had missed the cutoff time for putting in the entries and so I didn’t bother.

So it was only this afternoon that I discovered that, not only did the village show actually have a comedy vegetable category, but that only one person had bothered to enter it.*

oddest shaped vegetable

I think you’ll agree that when it comes to oddly-shaped vegetables, a forked carrot is as nothing to my mutant potato

monstrous potato

And in other years, I wouldn’t just have won, I’d have absolutely smashed it.

Next year. I swear, next year.

I did have fun giving people goes on my Brompton though.

* Not only that, but there were no entries at all for the Heaviest Onion prize. I could have walked it. Indeed, I could even have won with my spring onions, which have rather got away from me this year and are magnificent. Some of them might even be heavier than my actual onions

Hotting Up

August 29, 2014

This week I have:

  • Discussed how the last BBC #indyref debate went with in a pub with a poet and an artist (they felt Mr Salmond had won it but as they were wearing one ‘aye’ and two ‘yes’ badges between them they may not have been entirely disinterested in the matter)
  • Discussed with several cyclists over breakfast this morning how the local TV debate had gone (they felt the ‘nos’ had won it as the Yes side were merely making speeches without answering the questions)
  • Swapped flyers with a radical indy chap (I was publicising our bike breakfast, he was campaigning for a better world; I said that one the whole while I liked the idea of a radical independence I thought what we were likely to get was a rather conservative one, he suggested we get independence first and build the Scotland we want later)
  • Discussed how the independence campaign generally was going with an extremely well-spoken chap I met on the way home as he was diligently picking up litter from the verges, something he has done every week, he tells me, everywhere he has lived for the last 50 years (he felt Darling had the best lines at the last debate and didn’t feel just going it alone for the heck of it and seeing what happened was the wisest course).

This week I have not:

  • Got any further making up my own mind – indeed I have noticed that I have a tendency to want to vote the opposite way to the last person I have spoken to on the matter, and the more firmly they have made up their minds, the stronger this effect is.

I think it’s safe to say I’ll be having many more conversations on the matter over the next 20-odd days …

Peak Bird

August 28, 2014

starlings on a wire

There was another batch of trainee swallows outside our window this morning, making use of a break in the rain and joining a pair of warblers happily gleaning insects in the huge fennel plant by our front door, the spotted flycatcher hawking for insects off the roof of the shed, and the wagtails stomping up and down the guttering – not to mention the usual chaffinches and great tits, a scruffy pack of sparrows that loiter in the village, a squadron of starlings that spend a peripatetic life among the farms between here and papershop village, the jackdaws that live in the ruined cottage, a mess of pipits in the hedgerow (I think they’re pipits, but they never stay still long enough for me to confirm) – everything but (thank God) ASBO Buzzard, which seems to have called off its campaign of harrassment for the year. At this time of year, I cycle with a bow-wave of birds fleeing before me in feathery panic, from a tiny wren that barely gained enough height and speed to clear my front wheel to the murder of rooks beating slowly away from the scene of some crime on the road. We may not actually be at peak bird (the tens of thousands of geese and swans that descend for the winter probably outnumber – and definitely outweigh – our summer migrants) but it certainly feels like there’s an abundance now, before the swallows leave and the predators and the weather take their toll.

I even watched a peregrine being harassed from pillar to post by a gang of small birds that seemed entirely fearless. If anything, it was the peregrine that was in fear (and I can testify that being flown at even by something much smaller than you is not to be lightly dismissed) for it had left its lunch – a half-plucked pigeon – on the tarmac.

pile of pigeon feathers

When I came back, birds, peregrine and pigeon had gone, with only a pile of feathers remaining. Make that peak bird minus one.

Little People

August 27, 2014

I was just going through my photos for a long and involved post about cycling infrastructure (fear not, it’s going on the local cycle campaign site, not here) when I was reminded of this, also spotted near a farm gate when we were out inspecting a new cycle route.

little farm animals

Rural life is just getting weirder

The Number of the Beast

August 25, 2014

If anyone was wondering what happens if you leave your very early potatoes in the ground until the end of August, I can tell you that the result is not pretty. Once more I feel the sharp injustice that there is no ‘comedy vegetable’ category in the village show.

monstrous potato

And while we’re on the subject of freaks of nature and/or signs of the end times approaching:

cow with eight on its side

I can only assume that elsewhere in the field, six, six and six are waiting to line themselves up, and then it’s game over.

Playing Out

August 22, 2014

Cycling back from the pub this evening, early enough in the evening that there was still light in the sky (but still late enough in the summer that I had to have the dynamo on for the first time since about April), it was heartening to note that – in the right parts of Bigtown at least (by which I mean the wrong parts of Bigtown more generally speaking) – kids are still perfectly free range. There were kids on bikes, kids on scooters, kids kicking footballs, kids kicking their younger siblings and even kids sitting on the bollards in the middle of the traffic islands (this latter was a bit worrying as some of the bollards further up the road have had to be replaced by the kind that don’t mind being run over).

Why, on the whole, traffic bollards aren't a brilliant place to sit

Why, on the whole, traffic bollards aren’t a brilliant place to sit

Of course, you could equally have said that the streets were infested with feral kids who were out causing mayhem while their parents neglected their well-being, safety, and proper regard for bedtimes, but I reckon it’s all a question of terminology: our children are free range; those people’s kids are feral. But I think that if we want our kids to have the freedom to play, then it’s not always going to be nice middle-class children decorously playing hopscotch (I seem to remember that when we were kids enjoying the fabled freedoms of the 70s, setting fire to things did feature quite heavily although admittedly mostly bonfires rather than, say, cars); we have to be just as delighted to see shaven headed little tykes sitting on traffic bollards, although hopefully without any of the local boy racers coming too fast round a bend.

And besides, it’s nice to discover that there’s still one aspect of childhood where it’s the poor kids wot get all the pleasure, while the rich ones are stuck at home, probably conjugating French verbs or doing something equally improving. They may be getting even more of a head start in life than they had already, but they won’t be having anything like as much fun.


In other news, a sunset. Depressingly, it was before nine. Where did the summer go?

The New Black

August 21, 2014

I’m sure there are sound reasons – ecological, botanical or even entomological – why the whites, yellows and creams of the hedgerows should shift in August to something closer to shocking pink…

campion knap_weed willow_herb august_flower_2 august_flower august_flower_3

Not everything, of course


But it is striking.

Gardening Leave

August 18, 2014

I’ve been having one of those days today. You know the sort, the kind that starts with your computer announcing it wants to reboot – now! – just when you’ve got up early to get something finished before an appointment which you then don’t get finished in time, because you’ve got to go and end up sitting in a waiting room for an hour – an hour! – so you’re now running doubly late so you get half way home before you remember you need to pick up milk so you have to turn back and now you’ve wasted even more time and you can’t even relax and enjoy the cycle home because even though the forecast was all sunny intervals, the reality has suddenly become heavy downpours. And I’m still theoretically having one of those days because even though I did manage to get everything done for today’s deadline, there are another two looming this week and to be honest, sitting here typing this isn’t helping.

But sometimes, especially when you have worked all weekend to get something finished and sent off only to have it greeted by an out of office reply from the person you sent it to, you’ve got to take a break. And as I was sitting having coffee on the bench my eye fell on my poor spring onions which have been sitting waiting to be planted out for weeks while I tried to find room for them in the veg plot. And as we’d finally agreed that the current batch of towering salad leaves, magnificent though they are, are becoming a bit bitter, clearly it was time to go up and get some gardening done.

towering lettuce

An hour or so later the lettuce was gone, the spring onions planted out, and I felt a little less frazzled and ready to resume my place at the grindstone.

spring onions planted out

After I’ve finished blogging this, of course…

Me and Julio Down by the Kail Yard

August 15, 2014

Heading up to pick kale for our supper tonight, I thought I might have solved the mystery of where all the caterpillars had gone, or rather one of them at least:

cabbage white butterfly

Under the netting was a cabbage white* butterfly. I don’t know if it was too chilly to move, or had died of loneliness (because there weren’t any others, nor any caterpillars either) but it stuck around long enough to get its portrait taken, and then be deposited well away from my brassicas.

aphids on kale

All is not entirely well with the kale though, with some of the tops of the plants infested with aphids of some sort. I just cut off the affected parts of the plant and chucked them away. It adds to my suspicion that netting brassicas causes as many problems as it solves. Especially if the butterflies keep turning up on the wrong side of the nets.

That said, there is still rather a lot of kale. Let the other half’s joy be unconfined.

lots of kale

* Pedantic entomologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a cabbage white butterfly. They can feel free to identify this one in the comments; until then, it’s a cabbage white.

Road Home

August 13, 2014

I’ve been on trains and in the big city, having fancy coffee and posh sandwiches with sundried tomatoes and literary conversations and generally being busy busy…

road home

This was still the best part of the day