New Avian Arrivals TWTW # 126

I have a sense of Deja vu today, once again it’s Saturday, it’s raining hard enough to mean the allotment isn’t on the cards for the time being and I’m writing a blog post.

THis week the garden has been full of baby fledgling birds. Mostly Starlings and Great Tits. The starlings arrive in big rowdy gangs, a few adults and lots of youngsters. It’s a bit like watching an out of control school trip of teenagers come marauding through town. They arrive at the bird feeders and proceed to strip them bare. It only lasts for a few days and is fun to watch, but the youngsters aren’t all that adept at flying and will crash land all over the garden.

The Great Tits are the opposite. Unless you know they’re there, you’d miss them. Like their bigger brash cousins their flight skills are wanting but they are more prone to “hiding” in the top of a flower pot or under the hedge and waiting for their parents to bring them food.

Throughout this we keep a relatively low profile, the birds have the garden apart from when we spot a cat or a magpie and then we just go for a walk across the garden to deter the interloper.

Already the young Starlings are improving in their abilities and will now visit the feeders without crashing into them on approach and sending them spinning around like a fairground carousel. My guess is the Great Tits are still a few days behind, but hopefully will soon be exploring the wider world.

I also saw my first Swift of the year this week, only one and not where I normally see them so probably an early arrival or perhaps one just passing through on the way elsewhere.

In other news I took Wilson for his latest vet check-up midweek, so far so good in terms of the outcomes but we’re still waiting for the results of a blood test before we decide on next steps.


Allotment. As mentioned above, no allotment this morning but hopefully later on or tomorrow. Since last week however, I finally managed to get down to the plot with the mower and give the paths a haircut, and do some digging after the rains of last weekend. It was perfect timing, particularly for digging with the rain softening up the ground just enough to make it easy going. I’ve just got a couple more bits to do and now things seem warmer, more plants to get out. I’ve been planning where the last few things will go, so in the next few weeks things should start to properly resemble a veg plot.


Reading. Another week of reading little bits and pieces of lots of things. I’ve been reading a little about the life of Ernest Hemingway and separately about the life of adventurer Beau Miles. You may recall that I’ve posted some of his videos here before, most recently about his 90km commute to work on foot or like this one below about sleeping overnight in a 100 year old Gum tree. Both are fascinating, both a little crazy and both worth my time.


Work. It’s been a quiet week workwise, and has enabled me to spend more time walking in the woods and breathing in the world around me a bit more, and thinking about work in general.

I did hear that the bid I worked on over the bank holiday has been put on hold. The potential client is having a rethink about what they want. Sadly this happens all the time and is very frustrating because you’d assume that the client has decided on what they want by the time they go to the market. These things are always undertaking some unpaid work on the assumption that it might lead to a period of paid work, even if you might lose out to a competitor, but when the client pulls them and no one gets the paid work, that is even more frustrating. With work very suppressed at the moment because of the pandemic and it already being a competitive marketplace it’s increasingly apparent that having more than one source of income is important. Working on that.


More than 2 million voters may lack photo id required [LINK]

New planning laws an utter disaster say countryside campaigners [LINK]

Tory Death Cult [LINK]

Which App Will I Need For My Covid Passport [LINK]


I had to update my “new” cars software this week. This involved a lot of toing and froing between the car and the computer with a USB key and following a sequence of button presses that was a little like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. I think we got there in the end but when did cars become this complicated?


Well that’s it for this week. My diary for the week ahead is looking quite empty, so the world could be my oyster (subject to following whatever covid guidelines are in force). Whatever you have planned, take care care and stay safe.

Raindrops and Earworms TWTW # 125

Hello. I’m just back from the allotment. It’s too wet today to do very much – it’s always a fine line on my plot to be able to work the ground, particularly if the ground gets wet, as they the clay in the soil makes it a quagmire pretty quickly. In the summer if hot and sunny – it will become a concrete-like dustbowl.

We took a quick detour on our morning walk to remove some of the coverings that have been on the seedlings so that they can get the benefit of the rain (and to save me having to hand water). The temperatures are up high enough that I don’t have to worry about frost for the next few days (and hopefully we’re done with it completely now). There is nothing like good rain water to make plants grow.

As you can see I think Ruby wasn’t quite so impressed at the stop. We’re now tucked-up warm at home and I’m writing this while she is gently snoring under a blanket.

Mostly this week when I’ve not been at my desk working, I’ve been out with at least one of the dogs. We don’t often all walk together now, the older one prefers to stay at home for us to come back. I know he sits and waits in the hall for us to return, and I feel sad about that but medically it’s better for him that he’s there and he seems happy to play the role of guardian of the front step until we get back.

This week was supposed to have been a four day week, but I opted to work on Bank Holiday Monday, to make sure that I made enough progress with a project that I could hand it off to those I was collaborating with before I had other things that I needed to do. I made a mental promise to myself that I would have my Bank Holiday another day. So I’m writing it down here too, so that there’s some accountability to it.


Amongst other podcasts I’ve been listening to the latest edition of @documentally’s newsletter pod this week. It’s a part of his newsletter that is available to paying subscribers, of which I am one. He has been interviewing his paid subscribers, who come from all walks of life but all seem to have interesting stories to tell. I’ve volunteered to be interviewed so at some point he will get to me, which the more I hear of the other editions the more I wonder what on earth we’ll talk about.

You can subscribe to his newsletter for free and you’ll get something good in your email inbox about once a fortnight but paid subscribers (it’s less than the cost of a good takeaway coffee a month) get a weekly missive and the bonus audio and other occasional extras.

I’ve also taken advantage of an offer for 3 months free of Apple Music. As a rule I don’t listen to a lot of music and I’m not sure the full price (£9.99/month) will tempt me at the end of the freebie period, but I thought I’d give it a try. So far it hasn’t swayed me either way particularly. When left to use its AI it seems to predictably serve up things that are already in my iTunes library and not offer me much that’s new or I’ve not heard before. I’m trying to help it a bit by liking or not the tracks it serves up but it doesn’t seem to be having much impact yet.


Watching. After deciding not to watch the last season of Line of Duty in our household, one of us weakened and we ended up watching the whole series over 4 evenings this week – for the record I was present during this time and kinda watching over the top of my book. If you haven’t watched it yet and are going to then I won’t spoil it for you.


Work. As mentioned above I’ve been working on a proposal over several days this week, we now wait and see what happens next. I’m relatively relaxed about it either way as it’s a completely remote piece of work and part-time, so would still mean that I’d have space for other clients or non-work stuff.


Reading. I finished reading The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster this week. When I went to add it to my GoodReads profile where I log all my reads I noticed that it’s the first book that I’ve completed for a couple of weeks. Not because I’ve not been reading, although I think it’s fair to say I’ve not been reading as much but because I’ve been dipping in and out of all sorts of things, ranging from the history of the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944 to Ernie Pyle’s accounts of the war in Sicily in 1943 to essays by George Orwell and tales of Ernest Hemingway. A mixed bag indeed.


Signal take out honest ads showing how Facebook profiles it’s users and gets it’s ads banned. [LINK] [LINK]

Hydrogen fuel may not be the best way to replace fossil fuels. [LINK]

Farmer accidentally makes Belgium a bigger country [LINK]

UK Government plans to make 50% funding cut to arts subjects [LINK]


Well that’s all I have for this week. The week ahead is looking relatively quiet apart from having to take Wilson to the vet for a check-up midweek. Whatever you are up to, take care and stay safe.


Infrared Euphorbia TWTW # 124

Hello.

I probably should be working on a bid proposal right now. I have a few days to do this but obviously the sooner it’s done the better, that said I wanted to write this post first.


I had the scans back from both of the rolls of film that I sent off to be processed. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I am pleased with several of the images. One of the rolls was another roll of infrared and I want to get the negatives back so I can understand what I’m looking at a bit better. The first half of that roll I experimented a lot with different filters, exposure lengths etc and I took notes, but I really need to see the reference numbers on the negatives rather than the file names on the scans.

I’ve also bought a couple of new rolls, so hope to be loading the camera with one of those soon.

If you’re interested I’ve shared some of the images from both rolls in the slideshow below.


We watched The Call of the Wild over the weekend. We were both a bit sceptical about it being a good film, but both enjoyed it. It’s not going to win (m)any Oscars but it told the story from the book quite well. I’d been curious as to how that might happen. It wasn’t completely faithful but if you’ve read the book, you’ll certainly recognise it in the film. I’m not quite sure who the audience was meant to be and whether it was supposed to be a family film or something else, and it’s a shame that all of the dogs are CGI but it was a pleasant evenings entertainment if your bar is set fairly low.


I got to see my Mum in person this week. As covid rules are relaxed and vaccines deployed I was able to go and have a short visit after submitting to a rapid test. I’m not certain that Mum knew who I was behind all of the PPE, I think she recognised that it was someone she knew but not that it was me. That could be part of the Alzheimer’s disease too of course. A proper visit as opposed to a window visit or a phone call is of course much better and now that it can be a regular thing again, that’s much better.


Books. I’ve been reading The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster this week, albeit somewhat slowly. It’s all about the Common Swift and it seems a little poetic to be reading it at about the time that the Swifts normally return in any number. They seem later this year but that might just be my poor observation but I’ve spotted Swallows already and normally I see Swifts a little earlier than them.


Allotment. The nights are still so cold, despite us enjoying some warm daytime temperatures where I’ve even sat in the garden under our sun-brolly reading a book on a couple of afternoons. On the allotment I’ve been preparing ground for sowing but holding off with the actual sowing due to the nighttime temperatures. Clearing weeds and watering have also sucked up a lot of time. Although we’ve had a few passing showers they haven’t delivered much in the way of moisture for the plants and because of the temperatures a lot of things are under cover to protect them and so don’t see any of the rain.

Garden lore says that the first bank holiday in May is the time to sow runner bean seeds indoors and the second bank holiday the time to plant them out. I’ll be doing mine tomorrow on the bank holiday and hopefully temperatures will improve before the end of the month.


Work. As mentioned above I have a bid to prepare. I don’t feel that confident about it but we’ll see what happens. Otherwise this week has been pretty quiet in terms of work things, I’m not sure that I’m seeing the economy picking up in my sector the way it perhaps is in others.


The week ahead is going to focus on work things but hopefully there’ll be some time for some other things.


On the Beach TWTW # 123

I feel like I’ve packed a lot in this week. This might be because what I’d planned to do at the start of the week was scuppered and I ended up having to squeeze some things in on other days.

Monday morning was a trip to the vet, which was supposed to be a drop-off and pick up a couple of hours later. Unfortunately one of the machines that the vet had planned to use failed and a couple of hours turned into most of the day. I used the time well but it wasn’t what I’d planned. Everything worked out in the end, although the ripples were felt across the rest of the week.

The weather this week has mostly been cold to start and then warming up during the day, but each day has been gloriously sunny and I feel like I’ve taken full advantage of the sun whether it be drinking my coffee out of doors or taking photographs (see below).


Work. I’ve been waiting to hear about a couple of things, but incoming transmissions have been quiet this week.



Reading. I haven’t read all that much this week. Each night as I’ve gone to bed, my eyes have become heavy quickly and I’ve not been able to keep them open to read.



Photography. I’ve been taking a lot of photographs on film this week. I had a couple of rolls in cameras that I’d started a while ago and with the glorious weather decided to finish both. I took my camera(s) with me on my morning dog walks and now both rolls are being processed. Hopefully by next week there’ll be something to share.

One of the types of film I use regularly is Kodak Portra 400. I like the colours and the results that I get with that film, so I wondered if there were any instructions on the interwebs where I could adjust the picture styles on my digital camera to mimic this effect. I found these suggested settings and I’ve been using these revised custom settings. I have to say I’m quite happy with the results so far, here are a few that I took last week:


A couple of items dropped through our letterbox this week. Both connected to Robert Macfarlane’s book Underland. The first was a set of the Field Notes limited edition notebooks based on the book. I’ve mentioned this before and the use of Field Notes notebooks that Macfarlane made when researching and writing the book. The second was a bookmark made by the Anna at the Sea Library similarly to celebrate the book. Anna makes these bookmarks and sells them on her Etsy Store, each has a link to a particular book in the library.


Allotment. The weather is slowly getting warmer overnight and I’m planning to sow / plant out my remaining onion sets this week. I’m also planning to sow more seeds. Those sown a fortnight ago have started to germinate, so watering is starting to be the order of the day once again.

I feel like I am a little bit behind with the allotment, but then again looking back through my journal from last year, there isn’t a great difference. Some things are a little bit later but others have happened sooner.


The week ahead promises to be different. I haven’t been able to see my Mum without at least a pane of glass between us for about 9 or 10 months, next week all being well we might be able to hold a proper conversation without one or the other of us having to ask the other to repeat what they said as a van drives by. This is a benefit of vaccination.


Wherever you are and whatever you are planning to do in the week ahead, stay safe and take care.

More Things To Go Wrong TWTW # 122

Welcome. I’ve just been potting on some plants destined for the allotment, although not just yet. Nights are still cold so they won’t be going outside just yet. I’ve been looking back at what was happening 12 months ago and despite the obvious I was spending some time in the garden reading and enjoying the sunshine, but it’s been much chillier than it was 12 months ago. It might be warming up again, but who knows.

It’s been a busy week.


Reading. I’ve reading more in Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence this week, finishing The Dark is Rising and then Greenwitch and The Grey King. I have forgotten more about this series than I remember and there’s just one book to go.


Watching. I finally got around to watching 1917. I can see why it won some of the awards it did, but I have to say it left me feeling a little underwhelmed.




Work. I’ve been having several conversations this week about potential work. Some collaborative projects that might come to fruition. Early days but it would be good to get things going a bit more than they have been over the past year.

It’s also the time of the year when I have to start looking at my tax return. It’s not going to take very long this year I suspect given the impact that the pandemic has had on my work.


Allotment. In addition to the plants mentioned above I spent some time on the allotment this week weeding the overwintering onions and preparing some beds for transplanting more onions that I’ve been bringing on in the potting shed. If there is an uptick in temperatures they might go out in the week ahead.

I also had the pleasure of seeing the pair of buzzards above fly right over my head while I was enjoying a coffee break. They’re amazing birds and much more prevalent than they once were, but in some quarters still persecuted.


I also picked up our new car this week. It is more or less the same make and model as our old one, but in the intervening years the technology has grown and now there are many more things that could go wrong. Hopefully it will prove to be reliable and last as long as our previous one.

I’d hoped that when we had to buy our new car it would be an electric powered one but sadly it’s not something that we can afford at this stage even a second hand electric is beyond our budget. I know all of the arguments about electric vehicles being cheaper to run etc and they are totally accurate but sadly you still need that bigger chunk of capital at the time of purchase to be able to afford it. We’re not there yet. So we’ve brought the most fuel efficient, least polluting non-electric vehicle we could. It still runs on fossil fuels and that does make me feel uncomfortable, but I have made concessions in other areas over the years, for example I haven’t been on an aeroplane since 2015, for personal flights I haven’t been on one since 2007. We do what we can, we’re not perfect.


That’s it for me this week, next week I have to take Wilson to the vet and have a couple of other things in my diary. Whatever you’re up to stay safe and take care.

Books Past, Books Future TWTW # 121

Well it’s been a busy week. There’s also been some spectacular weather, most of the Country seemed to get snow, which once again passed us by but we did get some very cold nights and mornings and some spectacular sunrises. (The rumour that this is connected with me wearing shorts when the weather was sunny over the Easter weekend is greatly exaggerated).

I took the image above on Wednesday, this was the sunrise – I’ve cropped the image a bit but that’s all, not other editing.

So how’s your week been?


Reading. I’ve started re-reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence again, it’s been a few years and I’ve started with the first book Over Sea, Under Stone. A lot of people skip this book, although it is the first in the series, and start with The Dark is Rising which I’m reading now.

However Over Sea, Under Stone, holds some strong childhood memories for me, more so than the other books in the series which I didn’t read until much later in life. It’s one of those books like The Hobbitt and the Willard Price “Adventure” series that I have a vivid recollection of where I was and what was happening at the time I was reading it. Anyway my plan is to read them all over the next couple of weeks, or however long it takes.

I’ve also had a proof copy of a new book arrive for reading and review. The Heeding by Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes. Rob’s previous book Common Ground also holds some special memories for me, and is my favourite natural history book. I read it when it came out in 2015 and at the time I was making plans to leave my job through voluntary redundancy so I was reading it on my last few journeys to work on the train and my first few days of my new life.

A review to follow.


Watching. The Man Who Killed Hitler and then Killed The Bigfoot – I admit it was the title that made me watch this, it’s not a particularly serious movie but it was strangely watchable and Sam Elliott plays a blinder. It gets a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes but only 2 (out of 5 stars) in the Radio Times, so it’s probably one of those that you’ll either like or hate. Probably not something that I’ll ever watch again, but it filled an evening when there was nothing else on.


I found my Cub Scout badges this week. I posted this image on Instagram and Twitter noting that I don’t remember what all of them are for but that I remember a lot of the things that I did for them. There are badges there for; Rank (Sixer), First Aid, Hobbies, Home Help, Cycling Proficiency, Reading and Athletics but I’m not sure what they all are. There’s a modern list of badges and some clear equivalents but some I can’t seem to find. The modern badges are also all a different shape and size. Regardless the memories remain.


I had a test drive in a car this week, all very Covid secure. The car was bought to me, sanitised in front of me before I was allowed to get in and then I was able to go off for a short drive while the salesman waited for me to come back. The car then sanitised again. It looks like we might end up buying it and if so I’ll write more about it next week.


Allotment. Direct sowing the first seeds of the year – lettuce, radish, beetroot and parsnip. All of these are under cover as it’s certainly still too cold at night for them not to be protected, but they are varieties that it is okay to sow this early in the year, so hopefully they’ll germinated in the next week or so. I’ve also prepared the next section for more sowing.


That’s it for now, in the week ahead I may end up spending a lot of money or I may not. Whatever you’re doing this week stay safe and take care.

TWTW # 120

Greetings from a Sunny Easter Weekend, whatever meaning this weekend may have for you, I hope this missive finds you safe and well.

We’ve had our follow up visits to the vet this week and some more not great news. Wilson has a couple of additional issues with respect to his gall bladder and blood pressure, which need treatment. Suffice to say this will involve some further long term medication for him. In himself he is a very happy little dog and I hope that he will long remain that way but like us all as we age, illnesses arise.


Reading. You remember those mental rabbit holes I talked about a couple of weeks back? Well it was in connection with Richard Nelson and I was trying to track down a copy of a recent biography. I did that and have been reading Raven’s Witness by Hank Leftner this week. More mental rabbit holes have ensued. To me Richard Nelson was a radio show host / podcaster and an author but there was much more to him than that. Now I guess that’s pretty obvious to some people but it wasn’t to me until now. What do I mean? Well the biography’s forward is written by Barry Lopez, who was probably also facing his own mortality at the time (he died in December 2020), but is also a world recognised environmentalist and nature writer. Also for me, this is the field that I work in and whilst these names are ones that are familiar to me, sometimes I don’t realise just how much more widely outside of that field they are known. Now they’re probably not in the household name category but neither are they someone as unknown as I am in that field.

Anyway I’m enjoying this mental rabbit hole and seeing where it takes me and I suspect there will be some more reading along a similar burrow soon.


On the subject of mental rabbit holes and books, Austin Kleon published this piece about books that suck you in and books that spin you out which is kinda the same thing.


Work. Nothing much to report this week. I’d deliberately kept some space in my diary for vet trips and of course it’s a Bank Holiday week so I wasn’t anticipating it being particularly busy in any case.


Listening. More Encounters podcasts, Goon Shows and some David Sedaris this week.





Allotment. It’s been a chilly long weekend so far and the forecast is for a continued cold snap. I had planned to sow some seeds direct on to the plot this weekend but the weather made me think again, instead I just prepared the ground for the seeds, the sowing will have to wait for another day and some warmer weather. I don’t want to sow seeds for them to germinate and then be knobbled by the frost!

I did manage to settle my bill at the allotment shop which has reopened again, they’d distributed seed potatoes and onion sets “on-tick” because the shop was closed so I wanted to make sure I paid up. I also bought a few other things while there as the only form of cash I had was an old £20 note – there’s considerable debate about why the shop doesn’t take cards or at least contactless payments but I think it’s as much to do with the choice of the person who runs the shop. As I suspect that no one else wants to do the job, she really has the final say even though it is a bit frustrating – I don’t think I’ve used a cashpoint in nearly a year!


I’m not a great fan of Marmite but neither am I a hater either and at times it is a bit of a secret ingredient in a few recipes and not just something that you spread on toast or crumpets. Here are some more suggestions.


That’s it for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and well.


Goon Tomorrow TWTW # 119

Hello there! It’s been a medical week in our family this week. We’ve been lucky enough to both be called for our first Covid vaccinations, and were able to book for the same time. I’ve had a few days of side effects (mostly a numb arm, headache and some flu-like symptoms) but nothing major and the alternative is probably worse. I’ve been taking it a little bit easy. The sketch to the left was from one of my lazy mornings.

I’ve also had to take Wilson to the vet twice after a few days of an upset stomach that wasn’t improving using the usual remedy. We’re back there again next week for some routine follow up tests, so we’re hoping for some improvements. The vets seem a little baffled, as whatever the problem is remains stubbornly unshifted against their attempts.


Reading. I’ve not been reading much this week, haven’t felt much like it. I did however read through Together by Luke Adam Hawker, which I mentioned a week or two ago. It’s short on words but it is full of amazing line drawings. Great book.

After mentioning Richard Nelson last week, I stumbled across a recent biography of him that was written around the time of his passing. It mentions a lot of diaries that he kept and the biography draws on their content a lot. I’m looking forward to tracking down a copy.


Listening. I’ve been listening to a lot of my usual podcasts this week, and have finished Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist audiobook trilogy (regular trips to the vet has meant lots of time in the car for audiobooks.

Classic Goon Shows have also found their way back into my regular listening. I used to listen to these a lot, and had many on cassette, but over the years have stopped listening. If you’re interested there are a lot of them on BBC Sounds or via the webpage (you might need to be “in” the UK to listen.


Allotment. My potatoes made it into the ground this weekend. I had a couple left over so I planted them in a sack in the back garden. I don’t normally do this, or have much success with sack / pot grown potatoes but I don’t want to waste them. While I was down on the plot I also cleared and redug an area adjacent to the potato bed for another sowing of onions. I have some in the potting shed which I’m bringing on in modules, so will plant them out when they’re big enough in that spot.


Work. Nothing significant to report this week, apart from a virtual allotment talk on Friday to a group from Warrington. I think it went quite well, and had one of the best turn-outs for a virtual talk yet. There were some good questions too and although these things are difficult to tell, I think it went down quite well. It was a lunchtime gig, most are in the evening but the afternoon ones always feel a bit more civilised and mean that you preserve your evening, but I mustn’t grumble.


That’s all for this week. No great plans for the week ahead, although I am looking forward to being allowed to venture out for exercise more that once a day. We’ll be getting back to two dog walks a day.


Mental Rabbit Holes TWTW # 118

Hello again. If last week was a rollercoaster I’m not quite sure what fairground attraction this week has been but it’s had similar ups and downs.

We’ve had a bit more drama with the car when the garage were trying to diagnose the problem and we were looking at a reasonable bill or one that would effectively write the car off. Luckily the gods were smiling and although not cheap we are back on the road again. We’re now still thinking about a “new” car because sadly I think the inevitable terminal bill is coming at some point and at the moment we have some trade-in value. This has bought us back to the question of what that “new” car should be powered by and whether we can afford the upfront costs of electric or not. Watch this space.


Reading. I’ve been continuing and finished Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King and have started Skylarks with Rosie – A Somerset Spring by Stephen Moss. This is the authors tale of the first Covid lockdown and the wildlife in his local area while he’s confined to that “patch”. I’ve enjoyed the previous books this author has written about his local area more than many of his others so am looking forward to reading this.

I also published a book review of Gone by Michael Blencowe earlier in the week. If you missed it, you can find it here.


In between books this week, I picked up a copy of Kurt Jackson’s Botanic Landscape and was reading the introduction which happens to be written in part by the author Robert Macfarlane. He mentioned Richard Nelson who was an anthropologist who also produced the Encounters podcast which is essentially a series of field recordings of different animals and outdoor spaces. It’s no longer available as a podcast but the archive can be found here. I’d really recommend checking them out. In addition he wrote a couple of books, The Island Within (which is excellent) and Make Prayers to the Raven (equally good).

I’d thought that Richard Nelson had perhaps retired as there hadn’t been a new edition of the podcast for quite some years and by now he would probably be in his 80’s, but I was curious and I did a quick Google, only to find that sadly he had passed away in 2019. Here’s an obituary from the local paper in Sitka Alaska where he lived for many years.

Nels took his last breath listening to a raven’s call.

Sitka Sentinel 4th December 2019

He had quite a considerable influence on me over the years and I admit to be a little sad that not only has be passed away but the news passed me by for over a year. I’ve been listening to a few of the Encounters programmes this week.


Whilst mentioning Robert Macfarlane, he announced this week a collaboration with the notebook producer Field Notes to produce a special edition of the iconic notebooks linked to his iconic book Underland and the books amazing cover produced by the artist Stanley Donwood.

Macfarlane used a number of Field Notes notebooks when he was researching the book and wrote a piece about it for Penguin. I use a lot of Field Notes and normally have one in my pocket, mostly they’re for lists, short notes and bits and pieces I want to remember rather than research for a book, but I do like the special editions that they’ve been producing over the last few years.


Watching. We’ve been working our way through the final season of the French crime series Spiral this week. It’s not been bad, but I think there are some better earlier seasons, and they’ve probably quit at the right time.

If you’re interested in nature at all you might be interested in watching Deer 139 (below) which follows the 85 mile migration of a mule deer and the wildlife biologist who followed it.


Allotment. I’m pretty sure Spring has arrived (and yes I do know today is the equinox) there is a definite change in the weather. My seed potatoes are just about ready to go in the ground, so on my trip to the plot this week I dug the trenches into which they will be planted. Other than last year I have always used trenches for my potatoes; physically this is harder work than other methods but I find it has delivered the best results for me. Basically you dig a trench, then place your potato tubers in the bottom of the trench about 12 to 18 inches apart. Next backfill part of the trench with the soil you dug out, then a layer of compost or manure, then the remainder of the soil from the trench. You want to end up with a slightly raised mound along the length of the trench. Now wait. Once the potatoes start to show through you want to “earth up” the mound with more soil from either side of the trench, repeat this until you have a good mound of soil over the trench. Then leave for around 2 to 3 months depending on the variety, watering regularly. You can add grass cuttings, comfrey leaves and other things the the sides of the mounds to help retain water and provide some extra nutrients. At the end of their time, gently dig with a fork (or tickle with you hands and fingers) to unearth the potatoes.

If you don’t have the space of an allotment you can do something similar in a large sack or pot, put a layer of soil / compost in the bottom, add your seed potatoes and then cover with more compost and earth up as the leaves appear until the sack / pot is full. Water and wait as above and then harvest.


That’s about all that I have for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and take care!

Book Review: Gone by Michael Blencowe

Gone: A Search for What Remains of the World’s Extinct Creatures by Michael Blencowe

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Every child will probably have had an obsession with extinct creatures at some point. Most probably dinosaurs. Very likely they will also have been taught about the Dodo at school and maybe others.

Michael Blencowe’s obsession of species no longer with us, has transcended his childhood and in Gone he writes about a selection of these species that have held his imagination. Some, like the Dodo, will be familiar to the reader, others are less likely to be well known.

What stands out though is that in just about every case the reason, either directly or indirectly is the result of interaction by another species Homo sapiens.

This book is quite a short and quick read but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a powerful call to arms. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the authors knowledge of creatures no longer around or be struck by just how much humans have to answer for in our occupation of planet earth. Whilst the book focuses on just 11 lost (or probably lost) species ranging from mammals, to reptiles and birds it does also pick up on others and those who might well join the extinction list in the near future if our course remains uncorrected.

The book follows Blencowe’s journey in search of “what remains” of the 11 species and it is a search for remains. Those specimens that have been saved in museum collections and similar repositories around the world. In some cases whole specimens, in other cases just a bone or a feather. He journeys across the globe to museums large and small to view collections and “meet” with the creatures no longer with us. He also looks for those that are thought to be extinct but maybe hanging on.

It is well written and well researched with each lost species having it’s untimely demise catalogued. The author is at times self-deprecating in his approach but this belies what is an almost encyclopedic knowledge of many of these species.

There is humour, which helps to lift what might otherwise have been a quite dark set of stories, and the authors final foray in search of sea anemone is guaranteed to bring a smile to you face.

I wish that the book had been a little longer, it feels like some of the stories were a little brief but that might be to do with editorial constraints. The book is not explicitly a call to arms to prevent further species from meeting the same fate as those featured in it’s pages but I’d be surprised if you don’t come away from reading it thinking that you need to take a little personal action or accountability.

The whole book is wonderfully illustrated with linocuts produced by Jade They which bring those species that many of us will have never encountered before to life.


From the Publisher: Inspired by his childhood obsession with extinct species, Michael Blencowe takes us around the globe from the forests of New Zealand to the ferries of Finland, from the urban sprawl of San Francisco to an inflatable crocodile on Brighton’s Widewater lagoon. Spanning five centuries from the last sighting of New Zealand’s Upland Moa to the death of Lonesome George, the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise in 2012, his memoir is peppered with the accounts of the hunters and naturalists of the past as well as revealing conversations with the custodians of these totemic animals today.
With charm and insight he reveals what made these species unique; what their habits and habitats were; who discovered (or killed) them; what remains of them; and where we can view what survives of them today. He inspects the only known remains of a Huia egg at Te Papa, New Zealand; views hundreds of specimens of deceased Galapagos tortoises and Xerces Blue Butterflies in the California Academy of Sciences; and pays his respects to the only soft tissue remains of the Dodo in the world.
Warm, wry and thought-provoking, Gone shows that while each extinction story is different, all can inform how we live in the future.

About the Author: Michael Blencowe lives in West Sussex where he works and volunteers for a number of wildlife conservation charities, and writes for many local publications. He was co-author, with Neil Hulme, of The Butterflies of Sussex and has produced a factual insert on caterpillars for Julia Donaldson’s forthcoming children’s book, The Woolly Bear. During the first Lockdown he used the observations of nature in his own garden to produce the hugely popular 100 Day Wildlife Diary for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. He is a regular speaker at events.
His passion for wildlife began in his South Devon childhood where he first encountered tales of the last British Bird to be declared extinct, The Great Auk.

GONE: A Search for What Remains of the World’s Extinct Creatures by Michael Blencowe is published in hardback on 27th April 2021 by Leaping Hare Press at £18.99


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]