Not Dead Only Sleeping

March 19, 2017

‘Have you given up blogging then?’ the other half inquired rather plaintively this morning (despite the fact that I’m not, and never will be, as funny as I was in 2005).

The fact is, there’s a sweet spot between not doing anything interesting to blog about, and not having enough time to blog about it, and I’m still overshooting it. I may, technically, have become less busy at the end of last week but that doesn’t seem to have translated into my having any more time. Maybe next week …

Part of the problem is that I’m still extricating myself from the clutches of the community council in the parish I no longer live in as even an appeal from the pulpit has not yet produced a willing volunteer to become secretary in my stead. That also means helping distribute the newsletter, which the Brompton and I duly did this afternoon.

newsletter delivery route

Oh okay, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a hardship on an early spring afternoon.


Chionodoxa luciliae

In other news, my birthday present to myself has arrived a few days early.

Keeping Sunny

March 3, 2017

So this week it happened: a confluence of Pedal on Parliament planning, clashing work deadlines, impending weekend activities and general life stuff meant I had no time between Monday and today to ride my bike, even just to get somewhere, let alone go on a nice bike ride. I even had to hand over paper-fetching duties to the other half, as he was going into town anyway, as I couldn’t justify the time taken to cycle into Bigtown, which is a ninety minute round trip at the best of times.

Today, with deadlines still looming, I had a meeting in town so at least I had an excuse to get on the bike after four days of enforced inactivity. And of course, as soon as I did and got onto the B road, a driver in a four-by-four did their very best to make me regret it by passing fast and close on a bend because clearly a nanosecond’s delay in their Very Important Journey was worth forcing me onto the potholey edge of the road.

But I wasn’t going to let one extremely poorly-endowed driver, nor the four drivers following on behind who also decided to pass me a little bit closer than I would prefer, ruin my only bike ride in days. Indeed, as I got off the B-road and onto the single track roads, I did note when a white van driver waited behind me until I’d looked over my shoulder, and reached a wider part of the road, before passing with plenty of room. And when I came across him parked up at the site of the exciting road works, I stopped and let him know that it was appreciated. Yes, it’s no more than any driver should do, but sometimes you’ve got to spread the love for the people who do the right thing and he was pleased to be thanked.

After that I concentrated on enjoying the ride and all the little positive interactions I enjoyed: from the older chap who said ‘thanking you’ as I rang my bell before passing him on the bridge to the little toddler full of the joys of spring on the river path, whose grandad just gently ushered her out of the way so I could (slowly) pass, rather than snatching her to his bosom at the sight of the Dread Cyclist.


The daffodils have not emerged in our garden yet but the ones lower down the hill are out, if not particularly well focused (I was too lazy to get off my bike and photograph them properly). It will be interesting to see how long it takes for actual spring, as measured in daffs, to work its way up to us. How long my new found positivity lasts under the onslaught of careless driving is another question.

Good Fences make Good Neighbours

January 16, 2017

Since the cows went in for the winter, we haven’t had any next door neighbours for a while, but about a week ago, some sheep appeared in the field next to the garden.

sheep running away

They’re pretty flighty, so I haven’t been able to take any decent photos of them, but today as I headed out to get the washing in, I noticed that the bleating was a little louder than usual, and looking again, realised that two of them had decided to pay us a call.

sheep in the garden

This is in fact two sheep, not some weird two-headed sheep creature as it appears here

It is a universal sheep truth that, while they can get through some amazingly small holes in fences when you don’t want them too, they cannot get through a wide open gate when you do. Our garden has four corners, and in one of them is an open gate onto the lane. Our visitors and I proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes extensively testing this truth as the sheep ran inot every corner of the garden except the one with the open gate. They were even willing to bolt directly past me (at an impressive speed) in order not to go anywhere near the opening.

speeding sheep

Apologies for the blurry photo but it was moving at some speed and the light was poor

Tiring of the game, and a bit worried about panicking possibly pregnant sheep, I left them lurking behind the shed like a pair of naughty schoolchildren, and went and rang the farm.

sheep behind the shed

‘I’m pretty sure she can’t see us here’

Two farming chaps came pretty promptly and in the fading light gave a masterclass in garden de-sheeping (farming chap one hides behind the shed, just by the fence. Farming chap two starts chasing the sheep towards the shed. Sheep gets up to warp speed. Farming chap one catches it and effectively bounces it over the fence. Repeat with second sheep).

The problem, apparently, is that our predecessors cut a hole in the fence so their dog could get in and out, and although the farmer keeps closing up the gap, it keeps opening up again. I left them allegedly sheep-proofing the fence again with string (it was too dark by then to see anything), pleased that we discovered this gap in the defences before we had planted the veg plot and not after. I’m already working on a design for a hare-proof fence around the new plot; I might have to upgrade that to a sheep proof one now…

The Augean Chicken Shed

January 14, 2017

I think I may have mentioned that when the previous owners of the house moved out, there were a few things they left behind, including the rather unsalubrious interior of their chicken shed*

shed interior

We’ve been gradually clearing out that corner of the garden, as the likely site of our fruit cage and ultimately a greenhouse. Either way, the shed is for the chop. The other half’s suggestion was that we just douse it in petrol and throw in a match, but I was determined to make use of all that organic matter. So today, being just barely above freezing, but otherwise a lovely day, it seemed like a good opportunity to clean it out without being too overwhelmed by the smell.

There’s not much to say, really, about shovelling chicken shit. It wasn’t as unpleasant a task as it would have been in the height of summer; in fact most of it was well on its way to being compost already. I lost count of how many barrowloads it was, but our (350 litre) compost dalek, which I’d emptied to add to the planned veg plot, is now full again. And I did retrieve (and clean up) that spade …

piled up chicken manure

I’m still sad for the chickens who had to live in it, although at least the nest boxes had fresh shavings in them, which have also gone into the compost. I think I may need to take it all out of the dalek and mix it up more thoroughly, but that can wait. I feel like I’ve dealt with enough crap for one day.

So now it’s just a matter of getting rid of the shed. Nearest Village’s hyperlocal freecycle group has had someone looking for a shed of ‘any size and any condition’ for almost a year now, and I have passed on a message that we have one that’s very much of ‘any condition’ if they want to come and get it. Whether it can be actually disassembled and usefully reassembled into anything resembling a shed remains to be seen. It may be the petrol and the match after all.

* sans chickens, but not, as I discovered this afternoon, entirely sans eggs. Given the amount of time since it had likely been laid, I transferred it with extreme gingerliness to the compost bin …

Village People

November 15, 2016

Cycling back in the pitch dark (supermoon schupermoon – it doesn’t matter how close it is to the earth when you’re under a blanket of cloud) from the community council meeting* in old Nearest Village (our new Nearest Village is what used to be Doctor’s Village, for those trying to keep up at the back), I was startled to discover myself running out of gears, until I worked out that I was on Growly Dog Hill (named after the collie which regularly terrorised me on the papershop run), which has a sharp little kick half way up it. It got me thinking. This is a road which I must have cycled along hundreds, if not thousands of times. It might have been dark, but I would have thought I could have cycled it blindfold by now and been able to work out where I was. How quickly we forget things which were once completely woven into the daily fabric of our life.

Perhaps it’s a sign that I should be moving on – except that I haven’t yet actually dared get involved with new Nearest Village, which seems to be dauntingly abuzz with activity and initiatives. Old Nearest Village is much more my speed and if last night’s community council meeting was anything to go by, continues on its placid way, disturbed only by an ASBO crow which has taken to attacking the cars in the school car park, which makes a change from buzzard attacks on unwary cyclists. Oh, and someone has rashly organised group ukulele and penny whistle sessions. Who on earth would be interested in attending that, you ask yourselves?

ukulele in bike pannier

Have ukulele; will travel

Who indeed?

If nothing else, the massed ukes might make enough noise to see the ASBO crow off – and it beats nailing a dead crow to the school fence, which was the other suggestion raised at the community council. I’m fairly certain that would not go down well with the parents, even if the kids were fine with it…

* Apparently, merely moving out of the parish is not enough to get you excused from being the secretary of the community council once you are foolish enough to have become one. Indeed, I’m not sure whether dying is sufficient either, although it would tend to mitigate against the efficient running of the community council.**

** assuming you’re a rather more efficient secretary than me.

By the Horns

November 4, 2016

I have had occasion to wonder in the past why farmers put sheep in fields with fences that have holes which are temptingly just big enough for a sheep to get its head through, but not apparently big enough for the sheep to get its head out. There’s a field on the way to Bigtown which has recently been filled with sheep with horns, which makes them apparently extra susceptible to getting stuck as I have twice in the past week encountered a stuck sheep there and found myself wondering how to unstick the sheep.

So far, the best method that I have come across is to stop and go up to the sheep making helpful suggestions about how it might want to free itself in a conversational tone while looking around frantically for someone who looks as if they might know how to wrestle a sheep out of a fence* until the sheep – terrified by the approaching cyclist and unsoothed by my remarks – twists its head free.

This tends to be complicated further if a giant Hercules transport plane chooses that moment to roar overhead, as it did when I was on my way to the ‘allotment’ the other day, although the sheep actually took that part in its stride – obviously a person on a Brompton making conversation with them is way more terrifying than a ginormous plane which looks as if it’s about to crash through the tree tops.

Anyway, whether it was my advice or just sheer terror, the sheep detached itself and ran off without my having to get hands on with it. Long may this continue.

And no photo of the sheep (because it seemed a little insensitive) so you will have to make do with a chilli that seems to have turned itself into a ram’s horn instead.

curled up chilli

* I tried googling it, but the answers all seem to revolve around minecraft sheep, which isn’t massively helpful, and this video which reminds me that no sheep-related good deed is ever entirely uncomplicated.

Burning Issues

October 18, 2016

Sunday ride

Well, we seem to have arrived in Colorado during a heatwave, which would be better if I’d actually packed accordingly. I don’t know about you, but even though I did check the forecast and see that we were looking at some pretty warm days, somehow it’s hard to believe that it isn’t more prudent to pack a jumper or three rather than t-shirts and shorts which is what I could really be doing with. Not that I’m hoping for cooler weather, mind – there’s no such thing as too hot – but I’m certainly testing to destruction the claims that merino is magic at any temperature …

reflections in the lake

Anyway, the weather has made for nice sitting-out-on-the-porch type activities, which is fine by me, but anything more active has meant getting going early. Yesterday we took off after breakfast on the bikes to enjoy the slightly cooler morning and a brisk (the other half doesn’t do any other speed) spin out along the river path to the Nature Center and back, via a coffee stop* in town.

autumn trees

Today was intended to be a hike in the mountains but when we headed out to the car the sky looked rather odd

smokey skies

A grassland fire out towards the mountains was raging away, closing the mountain park and generally giving everything an apocalyptic feel.

smoke filled skies

Perhaps there really is such a thing as too hot after all…

* There’s a risk we may have started coffeeneuring by accident …