Badgering On

April 15, 2017

On Monday, riding into Bigtown for an appointment, I was startled to see a badger crossing the road ahead. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, and badgers are properly nocturnal, and more to the point even if they are out in daylight they don’t generally then curl up on the verge and appear to go to sleep, before only grudgingly moving into a ditch when a curious blogger on a bike approaches.

So clearly this was not a well badger, a suspicion that was confirmed when I returned a few hours later to find it now apparently asleep on the tarmac (this is a quiet road). Despite me standing over it for a good ten minutes, and someone else approaching in a four by four, it didn’t move although it was still breathing. Sick or not, I wasn’t going to attempt to move it (even a sick badger can be quite formidable if it takes exception to your actions, however well intentioned) so finally I went home, got in touch with the SSPCA who promised to send someone round, and hoped for the best.

Sadly, the best wasn’t to be, and there was a rather sad badger corpse beside the road when I cycled past the next morning. I also contacted the Badger Trust because there had been no visible marks on the badger, so I was concerned that it might have been poisoned (badgers don’t carry TB in Scotland, but that doesn’t always make them popular with farmers). Anyway, I’ve just heard that the badger in question was probably hit by a car after all. Apparently they often sustain internal injuries without appearing to hurt. This one just took a while to die. So no crime as far as the badger trust was concerned – just another ordinary death on the roads.

Which is good news of a sort – it would be worrying to learn that someone around here was either illegally poisoning wildlife, or else was so careless with poison that badgers were getting poisoned by mistake. But then again, it’s a sign of how blase we are about roadkill that hitting a badger with your car (and they are pretty solid – I’m told they can make quite a dent) and leaving it die is okay. Sad too that my best ever look at a badger (and they are extraordinary creatures when you see them close up) was one that was dying.

Fortunately that’s not the only wildlife sightings we’ve been getting in recent days though. Our adult hares have now been joined by a leveret which has taken to ambling around the garden in an extraordinarily fluffy and endearing way which makes up for its habit of nibbling on the flowers. Hopefully it will stay where it is and not venture too far onto the roads …

Advertisements

Facts in the Ground

April 13, 2017

Well, I don’t technically have enough time for gardening, but then again, I don’t have enough time to go insane either, so a bit of prophylactic horticultural therapy seemed in order. And besides, gardening has to be done when it has to be done, so if I was going to grow any veg at all this year, I had to get planting

seeds in modules

Seeds in the ground. Well, in pots anyway

So broad beans, peas, beetroot and leeks planted, because that was what my gardening pals had left over or what was still in date in my seed stash. Beans, kale, broccoli and squash still to come. I look back fondly on the days when I carefully planned out my seed order and rotation strategy…

Fork in the ground

Fork in the ground. Actually the soil is pretty good, albeit 50% willowherb root by volume

And I reasoned that digging this bed over now and then planting some actual plants in it would be less time consuming in the long run than trying to keep on top of the nettles, willowherb and brambles that were in it last year (this actually makes for quite an impressive display, but I don’t think Chelsea will ever come around to that). It means breaking the habit of a lifetime and going and splashing money out on plants, rather than seeds, but I have garden vouchers …

And now, back to the campaigning coal face.


N Plus – Steady On

April 11, 2017

Well, I had a tragic badger story I was going to share with you this evening but it’s all gone a bit CSI:Bigtown with talk of post mortems and special operations units, so you’ll have to wait for that one until I’ve got a conclusive ending, if I ever do.

However I did get the bike serviced, and it now has a completely new drive train and pedals and very spiffy it looks too, as well as being disconcertingly quiet.* As I was picking it up, the bike shop guy pointed to what looked like a motorbike in the corner of the shop and suggested I give it a go.

Let me just say now that I have absolutely no need for an electric fat bike, and that spending over £3,000 on an electric fat bike would be an act of lunacy, and that they have no practical use whatsoever, and that anyway, a bike that looks like a motorbike is clearly a bonkers idea. I am, after all, a serious cycle campaigner whose bike is her means of transport and nothing more, and who favours practical things like mudguards and hub gears over something whose sole purpose seems to be to make you laugh out loud with joy the minute you get on board.

So clearly that was not me riding round the gravel patches in the bike shop car park this afternoon, laughing like a loon.

Obviously.

Man, I’d love to ride it up the hill to our house though. And then cross-country back to Bigtown. Always assuming I was going to give it back …

* two people now have told me they know I’m arriving before I appear because they recognise the sound of my bike, suggesting this service may have been long overdue.


Turning Left in April

April 8, 2017

Cyclists for next 12 miles

A rare confluence of events today left me with a freeish day (mostly due to things I was intending to do not being ready for me to work on them, so I’ll pay for it later) and a sunny forecast. What to do? I had intended to wash my bike before its service (I never usually remember to do this) and maybe get on with the garden but then I had a bright idea on Twitter

The only problem is, even on a nice day, it’s quite tricky to find cyclists to flyer in Bigtown who might be interested in coming to an event in Edinburgh or Glasgow. But then I remembered that there was some sort of a road race going on in a village not too far away from here. Time for another mini adventure

The problem was, I was only able to get away at around 11:30 (a ‘free’ day is a relative concept here), the village was several miles away, the race started at 11, and I cycle very slowly. I had no idea how long these races take, or whether I would make it in time before the riders all finished and dispersed. So I slightly reluctantly took the most direct route despite it being all on roads with white lines down the middle, something I generally try and avoid (we’re a bit spoilt for quiet roads around here, what can I say?)

minor A road

It was only once I arrived, in what was for me record time, that I realised it might have been a good idea to find out some details before setting off, like where the race was finishing for example. The streets were completely deserted of anyone, including cyclists, except for one chap pottering along on an old racing bike in jeans and a rather smart shirt, and a mother cycling with her two kids along the pavement. Thinking I’d wasted my time and missed the whole thing – apart from the whole going on a nice bike ride on a sunny afternoon part – I circled the streets one more time until I came across rather more parked cars than normal, many with bike racks on them. Aha.

lone cow

Lone cow in a field full of sheep, looking about as discomfited about it as I was

Then the first cyclists started appearing over the horizon. I was in time. The problem was they had just finished a hard race and were more interested in picking it over with their mates and talking about their wattage and who got dropped on that hill and who shouldn’t have attacked and who should, than they were in taking my flyers. I was also feeling a little out of place with my bike and pannier that probably weighed twice what some of the riders weighed, let alone their bikes. But fortunately the race organisers very kindly let me say a few words and dish out some flyers and, after a brief detour to the local shop (where I also encountered one of my candidates for the council and was able to give him a Walk Cycle Vote postcard), I headed for home satisfied at another adventure completed, and the word spread a little further about my various campaigns.

back roads home

The road back was somewhat more my style too.

beech avenue

How we suffer for our cause…

Obligatory sheep photo


If I Ever Go on Mastermind…

April 7, 2017

… My specialist subject can be ‘Scottish local authority election candidates, May 2017’

We have finally got the Walk, Cycle, Vote candidate database up and running, complete with funky mapping based ward finder courtesy of the other half, and we’re on the hunt for contact details for all the candidates (and there are over 2,500 of them). This is surprisingly difficult. You would think that, were you running for office, that you would want to let your electorate know what your policies were and how they might contact you, but you would largely be wrong. We have someone on the case truffling out the various twitter accounts, Facebook pages and websites-that-haven’t-been-updated-since-2015. And I’ve been doing the checking, data munging (it is a word) and generally falling down a rabbithole of wondering why some local parties’ Facebook pages need to have a description on them saying that THIS is the official Facebook page and we should ignore anything with a similar name that isn’t the official Facebook page and not believe anything that’s on it.

We also had a brilliant Women’s Cycle Forum Hustings in Glasgow at the brilliant Glasgow Women’s Library, with loads of brilliant and interesting and passionate women, but I haven’t had time to write it up yet, so you’ll just have to believe me.

The election is in less than a month (and Pedal on Parliament is in just over a fortnight). I don’t know whether to be relieved that the end is in sight, or panic, so I’m alternating between the two.


Binge Gardening

April 5, 2017

We had gardening pals around for lunch today, who very kindly came bearing surplus seeds as I have neither bought any myself nor managed to get to the regular seed swap organised by the local guerrilla gardening group.

As well as the pleasure of their company, inviting them round also gave me the spur I needed to put some hours in on Sunday catching up with myself in the garden.

Veg plot in AprilNotice the veg plot now has proto hare-defences, created out of the hazel sticks and some willow that we cut back earlier in the year. In my head, this was going to be one of those Pinterest-worthy rustic woven fences, but it’s perhaps not quite as impressive (nor indeed likely to be as hare-proof) as I’d hoped. The main problem being that I didn’t have enough suitable material for weaving in, but as we have two largeish willow pollards in the garden, there will be more where that came from. Also, I am avoiding putting any of the willow actually in the ground as I don’t want my fence to turn into a line of willow trees the moment I turn my back on it, which willow is prone to do (even if stuck in upside-down, apparently)

As for the rest, well, we’re still seeing what’s coming up so that’s my excuse for not getting to grips with the other parts of the garden. I was pleased to discover that what I had thought were peonies are in fact hellebores

hellebores

And I’ve long wanted wood anemones, and suddenly I have a nice little clump of them. Not quite in the right place, but I can help to spread them.

wood anemones

Of course, some other less-welcome plants are popping up too

nettles emerging

A reminder not to let everything get too behind hand …


Exciting Gas Pipeline News

April 1, 2017

Look, we live in the country, we have to take our excitement where we find it …

It turns out that the gas pipe being put in on my route to Bigtown is no ordinary gas main – they are effectively dualling the main gas pipeline to Ireland (which might be interesting come Brexit) at a cost of around €92m.

On the ground, that translates into an impressive swathe through the landscape.

gas pipeline works

So far the workers seem a friendly bunch (with impeccable road manners too). I particularly like it when they’ve held up all the cars to move some impressive piece of machinery across the road, but just wave me on my bike through…

If you’re interested in how gas pipelines are laid – stop laughing at the back there, I don’t see that it’s unreasonable – then you can read all about the project here. But rest assured, I will keep you posted on progress anyway, whether you’re interested or not.