Rewilding

June 19, 2019

I have been reading The Running Hare with some enjoyment (despite, perhaps, rather than because of its prose style). It’s an interesting excursion into what wildlife-friendly farming might look like and it has reinforced my recognition that much of what we think of as natural countryside is in fact a green desert. In particular, the dairy farm that borders our garden; much as we enjoy the annual visitation from Moo-I-5, for the rest of the year the field next to us is being put to work growing silage and it is much sprayed, cut, slurried and the like, making me wonder just how chemical free our own vegetables really are.

Fenced-off field margin

However, after the coos all but put paid to the garden fence last year, we’ve gained a bit of a breathing space. For reasons best known to himself, instead of replacing the tottering fence, the farmer just strung a new one at an angle to the old, creating a triangle of land which is now out of reach of cows and tractors (albeit not the sheep who usually spend a few weeks there in the winter). It gives us a little more distance from whatever is being sprayed and it has also created an uncut corner which is going a little wild. I’m watching with interest to see what comes up, assuming it’s allowed to remain – if you believe some rewilding gurus this will turn itself into scrubland, and then forest, unassisted, given enough time.

So far, we’re seeing nothing more exciting than nettles, dock, cow parsley and buttercups among the grasses (none of which are in short supply in our garden either), but rest assured you will be regaled with updates should things become more interesting.

I know, you can barely wait.

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Exciting Trench Digging News

June 7, 2019

I suppose I should be grateful to my phone for choosing the morning after I had just met a series of unfeasibly tight deadlines to die on me. It has been proving erratic for a while, but I like to get as much life out of my stuff as I can before replacing anything, so I was resolutely ignoring it until finally I couldn’t. Rebooting, cache wiping and a factory reset all failed, the phone repair shop admitted that they’d just be googling it the same way I was, so it looks as if it’s time for a new phone (or new-to-me, anyway). Fortunately I have enough offers of people’s cast offs that I probably won’t be left stranded for too long – but today at least I have been phoneless, which also means cameraless.

Which is why you’re not being treated to the exciting (in the very specialised meaning of the word used in this blog) sight of two men digging a trench along the side of our tiny dead-end road (it was quite sweet that they’d even put out roadworks signs, even though it would probably have been less effort to just come round and warn us individually). Screeching to a halt on my bike I said the words that most rural householders can only dream of uttering:

… are you … putting in … fibre … by any remote chance?

Readers, they were. This was exciting enough news that I had to cycle back up the hill to tell the other half (OK, I had also forgotten the Guardian voucher but to be honest, such is our hill, that I normally just donate the Guardian the cost of the voucher if I realise I’ve forgotten it by the time I’ve descended). I leave it to you to calculate the bandwidth* of a slow cyclist on a steel tourer pedalling up a Category 3 climb, but believe me it won’t be the lowest we’ve experienced since moving to the country so this is exciting news

Looked at objectively,I would have to agree with the guy on the digger when he declared it mad to be running fibre up a road that serves a grand total of six houses, but it seems the Scottish Government is committed to rolling out superfast broadband to every house and business in Scotland and amazingly that appears to be what it’s doing. Colour me amazed.

Now we just have to hold them to turning their climate emergency promises into actual policies and we may just be getting somewhere. I might suggest 20mph limits as a good place to start.

* as the lecturer on my IT degree used to say back in the last century, ‘never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of floppy disks** heading down the freeway.’

** younger readers – ask your parents.


Party in the Back

April 21, 2019

Old military road

So we had a party to attend this afternoon – a 70th birthday celebration, just down on the coast, a mere 24 miles away as the bike rides and while, even for me, a round trip of 48 miles* is a bit of a reach, the weather was so gorgeous we decided to go for it anyway.

spring woods

There are so many reasons for embarking on such an adventure: saving some CO2 emissions, being able to take full advantage of the party catering (delicious), having something to talk about to your fellow guests, and the chance to properly appreciate all the glories of spring as it gets into gear. But never mind all that for we came back via papershop village and our old house and that meant a chance to check out developments at the ford.

Our ford correspondent has been keeping us updated on the stupidity of surfacing a road that is underwater 90% of the time with tarmac, and its subsequent deterioration, but I haven’t had a chance to see this for myself until now. After an unprecedentedly dry spring, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out – but it turns out the powers that be are on to it. They have seen the error of their ways and reverted to concrete:

ford repairs

And they have not been messing around.

ford repairs closer

More on this important story as we get news.

* 49.9 once you’ve factored in the odd navigational error. Ahem.


Noisy Neighbours

August 23, 2018

So, we have got new neighbours over the summer, which is good because it means we’re no longer the newbies in our little group of dwellings (the oldest inhabitant is 90-odd and was born here so we’re never going to actually catch up). As custom dictates, we’ve dropped by to say hello and deliver some of their misdirected mail and, obviously, have as much of a nosy round as we* could manage within the social boundaries offered by being invited in for a cup of tea.

They have also returned the visit and we’ve since exchanged pleasantries as we pass through their yard up on one of our normal walks. And it was during one of these that we noticed they have a couple of guinea fowl – indeed they’re hard to miss because they make even more of a racket than the peacock that used to live down the road from the old place. They’re even harder to miss when you end up inadvertently herding them comically down the road in front of you as we did on our return from our walk. Fortunately, they didn’t make it into our garden but headed up the hill towards our other neighbours instead and we let them get on with it. Presumably any birds that free range must have at least more road sense than a pheasant and enough of a homing instinct to get back to their new place (unless of course the new neighbours started out with a couple of dozen of them and these are just the survivors. I hope not, because I really don’t want to cycle past a sad little heap of polka-dot feathers on the Nearest B-Road).

Anyway, whether they’ve lost their way permanently or are just of an exploring bent, this morning, we discovered we had visitors…

guinea fowl

It’s an interesting addition to the garden bird list, but I may have to upgrade my hare defences.

* And obviously by ‘we’ here I mean ‘I’ as the other half is above such things.


Breaking Ford News

July 24, 2018

My spies report with stunning news: the Tarmac Fairy has got a bit ahead of herself

tarmacked ford

She’s only gone and tarmacked the ford.

This has incited some local discussion on the advisability of putting tarmac on a piece of road that is, by design, underwater for most of the year. There’s a reason most fords are made of concrete.

Could it be that, like everyone else in the country, the coonsil have been so beguiled by the heatwave that they have forgotten that it will eventually end?

dry ford

Or do they know something we don’t?

(photos courtesy of Steve Jefkins)


I’m with the Band

June 9, 2018

eden artist's ticket

Oh all right, the choir I have been singing in (in the loosest possible sense) will be performing at the Eden Festival tomorrow, which is somewhat less rock’n’roll but probably more my speed.*

The main issue will be getting there. We’re getting into the festival for free – but car parking costs £15 (there was an audible intake of breath at this news – round here even paying for parking at all is considered a breach of human rights). I could try and scrounge a lift, as I normally do, but at the moment, mainly because the sun is shining, I’m toying with cycling there. I love the idea of getting there by bike and it’s 20 miles, which is perfectly doable. The problem is, while almost all of it can be done on quiet roads, but there’s an unavoidable couple of miles on the A701, which is a nightmarish road even in a car. There’s also the bus, which takes full-size bikes, so I could keep my options open if it all turns out to be a bit too hair raising.

We will also be performing tonight in Kirkcudbright, if anyone happens to be at a loose end and wish to hear some excellent singing (and me). It’s all very different from the village choir  and the odd music evening in the village hall …

* One of my junior colleagues back the day once tried to persuade me I should try going to a festival until I pointed out I don’t do camping, don’t like crowds and am not that interested in going to hear bands. “OK, so maybe Glastonbury isn’t for you”, he conceded. This seems like the perfect opportunity to dip my toe in the festival-going waters without any of the camping part and possibly less in the way of crowds…


101 Uses for a Brompton: Going Singing

January 31, 2018

As I mentioned, I’ve been trying out a new choir (if it was the sort of choir where it was the other way round, I’d probably not have got very far, but they claim to be able to work with ‘the voice you have’ …). The main reason for choosing this choir, which is in Notso Bigtown (there are others which are nearer) is because a pal and ex choir member from Old Nearest Village found out about it and offered to give me a lift there and back. But this means her first driving five miles in the wrong direction to our house and then turning around to go back past her house on our way out. Clearly this is just dispiriting, even in a car, so after trying a few cunning alternative routes which turned out to be slower, I decided the easiest thing would be to ride the Brompton down to hers, at least on evenings when it isn’t snowing, pissing down or hailing frogs, all of which seem equally likely given the weather we’ve had recently (snowing again today, thank you, although none of it seems to have stuck around). It cuts out at least one of the unnecessary journeys, and crucially it’s almost all downhill, so it doesn’t feel like anything but a pleasure on my part.

So last night, I zoomed happily down the hill, blessing my new C&B Seen lights (which I should probably review one of these days), and arriving feeling refreshed and ready to head off for a happy evening of singing, and learning, and generally not looking at a screen, which is all good.

Even better is the fact that we pass through the village on the Big A Road that has recently had two Stoplights of Shame installed. These are amazing. If you’re detected doing more than 30 as you get into the village outskirts, they turn red on you and you have to sit there for all to see, having saved precisely no time. Instant karma. There was of course an almighty fuss when they were first installed and they were taken down to be tweaked after people complained they were stopping people who weren’t speeding, but they’re now back up again and working a treat. I have to admit I love the wonderfully sedate pace everyone now adopts through the village (there might even have been some unholy cackling), at least until the last SoS is negotiated. Why we don’t have these installed everywhere I have no idea. They’re bloody brilliant.

And the choir? Well they seem to be coping with the voice I have, which is only really an alto in the sense that I can’t hit any of the higher notes, rather than being particularly comfortable in the lower ranges. We’re learning some quite challenging-to-me stuff, but so far we have always managed to pass through the ‘God we’ll never get this’ stage, to the ‘hang on, that sort of makes sense’ stage to the ‘oh wow actually that managed to sound quite good’ part, at least for a line or two. And no being singled out or shamed, at least unless my pal puts her foot down on our way home.