It was still dark when I went to the allotment this morning. We stopped in there on our morning dog walk to see how wet the ground was and whether it was feasible to do anything practical there today. The result was a negative, the ground is still too wet to do any digging, and walking on the beds would do more harm than good. So instead I settled for digging a few leeks – I am thinking about a leek and brussels sprout cheese sauce over some pasta for supper tonight. This was all done by torchlight or rather the light from my headlamp, much better for the allotment as it leaves your hands free to work the tools. I forget now how long I’ve had this one but I’m pretty sure they don’t make this particular model anymore, although it still works pretty well.
This week has been has been focussed on work related things without much time for other things apart from dog walks, eating and sleeping. In part because I have less time for work in the week ahead but lots to do and want to be ahead if I can.
We did manage an afternoon walk in the woods this week and I spotted this bright purple mushroom. The app on my phone, confirmed by my field guide when I got home, told me that it was an Amethyst Deceiver. Despite the colour it is apparently edible, although known to absorb arsenic if it’s present in the surrounding environment, so maybe not totally safe. It’s quite late in the season for this particular mushroom, but a first for me as I don’t recall ever seeing one before.
I finished reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey this week, it’s the sort of book that you only dip into now and again, which to be honest has been just what I needed this week when I haven’t had space for extended reading. It did get me thinking about my own daily routine which has been pretty fixed for a while now, particularly when I have work on.
I’ve been reading Alistair MacLean’s Floodgate since, but haven’t made many pages of progress.
Last week’s rain has left the plot pretty damp so I’ve been focussing on doing some tasks that don’t require me to be on the main beds. I’ve been cutting out last years old growth from the loganberries. As they are spring fruiting they’ll produce that fruit on this years new growth, which needs tying in.
I harvested some leeks which became leek and potato soup for supper on Saturday, with enough left for lunch today, homemade rolls to boot.
A bit more Apple TV this week (and I’m now pretty sure that I won’t be paying for it when my freebie membership comes to an end). As the first Season of Foundation comes to an end I’m quite glad I don’t remember the story from the books – although I think I will reread them once it’s done – as it’s really unclear as to just what is going on. The other show we’ve been watching, we’ve decided not to bother with from now on, Invasion, is just a mess.
We have been enjoying the BBC’s Shetland, based on the Ann Cleeves novels and also the adaptations of P D James’ Adam Dalgliesh series being shown on Channel 5. The latter I’m pleased to see has tried to stay faithful to the time period of the novels, which other versions haven’t. I’m hoping that it will get a second season, as we’ve really enjoyed the first.
Following on from that who doesn’t need to see a singing banana playing the guitar?
Well that’s all I have for this week. Next week I’m going to be hanging about waiting for a door to be fitted, and hopefully working while that’s taking place, and then probably painting the same door. Whatever you’re up to – Stay Safe and Take Care.
I seem to have spent a lot of time in the dark this week. Taking photos of the moon, treasuring my night vision and eschewing a torch or other artificial light.
I feel these weeks in autumn and early winter more than any other time of the year, and the feelings aren’t all good. Whilst I don’t mind the dark I realise that it has an effect on my mental state. I’m much more tired than normal and prone to sighing more than normal. I know that I’ll adjust to the shorter days in time the change of time to GMT will make my morning dog walks lighter again for a while. I also know that many others feel this time of year much more than I do.
Our Covid numbers are very much on the rise again, our useless government are refusing to implement even the simplest of preventative measures and pinning all their hopes on booster jabs that most of the population doesn’t have access to. Add to that shortages and cost of living crisis….
Looks like Christmas is cancelled again this year.
I’ve had some new subscribers this week, if you are one of them – Welcome!
If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome, this is my website / blog.
By training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.
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Between the darks rising and falling this week, I’ve mostly had my head into client work. Tonnes of carbon dioxide, and looking at how we seemingly commute such short distances in our cars. The numbers of course hold no context, they’re just numbers there’s no why as to how they are.
I finished reading Horse Under Water by Len Deighton and moved on to Silverview by John le Carré, both were excellent. It’s odd that this is possibly the last John le Carré, there’s a little tease that there might be some “uncompleted” novels in his papers and it seems that the family is very much in control of them so I think that if there are any more they will only be released if they are any good.
TV & Film
I sat down and watched IT Part 2 this week. I say watched because I ran out of time and didn’t finish it. I’m not sure I’m going to go back either as I really wasn’t enjoying it.
I did enjoy the Stephen King cameo, but just couldn’t get into the rest of the film
[SPOILER ALERT ENDS].
I’m not sure why, it just didn’t sit well with me, there’s some impressive special effects, and a good correlation with the original book (as far as I remember it anyway), but I just found it a bit, well, meh.
On the other hand we also watched The Guiltywhich I thought was very good. The films premise revolves around a single emergency service operator and there are very no other major actors seen, most of the other characters are voices on the other end of the phone. It’s Swedish with subtitles but a great concept with a nasty twist. Worth watching if you can track it down. (It’s also been remade by Netflix with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role).
We’ve also been watching the return of Shetland on BBC, good to see it back but too early to say much more. Plus more of Isaac Asimov – Foundation and the new Apple TV series Invasion. I don’t know where the latter is going, the first three episodes have been released and it’s unclear exactly what is going on.
Allotment & Food
We had quite a bit of rain during the week, which is good for the recently planted broad beans, garlic and onions. It’s also made for some easy digging and weeding, so I’ve been clearing parts of the plot that are no longer going to be used this year. A couple of cold overnight temperatures have done for the squash and courgette plants so they’ve been pulled up and the remains added to the compost heap.
I made some simple onion relish over the weekend. We were having vegetarian hot-dogs for supper on Saturday and it went perfectly with those in the homemade rolls. When I say simple I do mean just that:
Take a couple of large onions and slices them into thin half-rings, you’re going for long thin strands rather than pieces. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry them on a high heat for a couple of minutes and then turn down the heat and continue to cook until the onion it becomes soft, keep stirring them. Now add some demerara sugar (just enough to cover the onions), a good glug (couple of tablespoons) of white wine vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Keep stirring and continue to cook until the vinegar is all evaporated and the onions are well caramelised.
You can either allow it to cool and use later or serve it while still hot. It’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge. You could also make some bigger batches and store in sterilised jars, but to be honest it’s so quick and easy to make fresh each time why bother? We had enough for our hot-dogs and enough for a lunchtime cheese roll the following day.
Welcome, this is going to be a short one this week, mostly because I’ve not been doing all that much.
As trailered last week, I’ve had my second covid vaccine. The theory that in a couple of weeks I’ll be fully protected doesn’t really make me feel much like changing much in my approach at the moment however. In theory everything should be back to “normal” after June 21st. Quite what that means isn’t clear, but there is a good debate at the moment in terms of whether we should hold back a bit longer or carry on but keep some elements like masks in public and some physical distancing. I think the latter makes a certain amount of sense if we do fully open up, but the public, politicians and scientists seem fairly evenly split over what the right direction is.
Allotment. The combination of sunshine and showers over the last few weeks has really made everything grow, especially the weeds. I’ve been harvesting broad beans which are young and sweet and don’t need cooking, so have been making salads with them. Also our radish crop continues, so plenty of them too. I’ve been planting out the last of the current batch of plants grown in the potting shed from seed, including courgette, squash, cucumber and fennel. The latter is a new one, so I’m not altogether sure whether they will continue to grow at all and if they do how they will turn out. I’ve also been doing the inevitable weeding and mowing of paths.
Books. I finished Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie and then after a couple of days of not reading much picked up the second book in the series Sidney Chambers and the Peril of Night. I already had both of these on my kindle but if I want to read the whole series I’ll have to track down the remaining books.
TV & Film. I’ve watched a few things this week, including Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse which Ann loved (she even said she’d watch it again, which is unheard of for a Marvel film) but I found it a little underwhelming. I also watched The Outpostwhich is based on a true story, and I found a bit disturbing.
I am looking forward to watching the biopic about Anthony Bourdain when it’s available. I’ve really enjoyed his books and tv series, a troubled soul who we lost too soon. Here’s the trailer.
AudioMo. June is AudioMo month and I’m participating again by posting a short piece of audio each day. As with last year there isn’t any particular theme to my posts. If you’d like to listen to them, they are all posted on my Twitter account, to listen to other people’s posts you can follow the hashtag #audiomo on twitter. There seem to be a lot of people taking part this year which is great.
That’s it for this week. Whatever you’re up to in the week ahead, take care and stay safe.
Once again the allotment is wet and miserable, but the weather is due to improve later so I’ll be heading down there then. I did pop in to check everything was alright this morning after a day of strong winds yesterday. No damage to report. While I was there I picked these radish, the warm and wet conditions of the last couple of weeks means that they’ve grown well, and these have a very fiery taste, eye-wateringly so!
I’ve spent a little time on the plot during the week this week, it was perhaps a perfect way to spend an afternoon, I was earthing up the potatoes and sowing some extra broad bean seeds. The weather was sunny and the temperature not too hot.
I’ve also been clearing out the potting shed of the over-wintering plants and converting the space to enable us to grow some tomatoes and cucumbers.
I had to take Wilson back to the vet on Monday, and upset stomach has kept us busy but it wasn’t resolving on it’s own. Things seem much improved now though.
It was also Ruby’s 7th birthday. I pulled together a short montage of some of my photo’s of her over the last seven years.
Reading. I’ve been rereading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the umpteenth time this week, I enjoy these stories so much but it’s been a while since I’ve read the whole collection. I’m planning to go on to Memoirs and Return in due course but picked up a Brother Cadfael – The Confession of Brother Haluin to read in the meantime. I always learn something new reading these, often having to resort to looking something up in a dictionary or encyclopedia. For example did you know that a “Brychans” is a blanket made of home spun wool?
I’ve also been reading some of George Orwell’s Diaries, these are interesting particularly as you can see how his experiences recorded in them later translated to some of his books. For example his journey to go hop-picking where he spends some time sleeping “rough” is very similar to what ends up being in Down and Out in Paris & London. I hope as I read more of them there will be some similar parallels.
Links. There’s been a lot of coverage of the Queen’s speech and the government’s announcements about tree planting and peatlands. There’s a good summary here. Personally I think the proposals are a bit weak and don’t go far enough, particularly with regards to stopping the use of peat-based compost, with the government holding yet another consultation on this rather than actually taking action based on the decades of evidence that it already has.
There’s also a good ranking of companies by the Financial Times of those reducing their carbon emissions here.
Twenty firms produce 55% of the worlds plastic waste [LINK].
David Quammen on travelling into the past to cover the pandemic [LINK]. I’ve said it before but you need to read David Quammen’s book Spillover to help understand how we got to where we did with Covid-19.
I’ve been sorting through a lot of boxes from my parents loft this week. In one I found a lot of old books from my childhood. There were a lot of Dandy annuals and also my old i-Spy collectors books. It looks like I had a life membership from around 1977 but there no longer appears to be an i-Spy club going in the same format anymore. Great shame as it these and other similar books that really got me into nature and the outdoors and recording all the things that I saw. Something that I am still doing to this day.
Work. A very quiet week workwise, it’s a real struggle at the moment. I’ve got a booking for an evening allotment talk next week and have been making the final arrangements for that and preparing my slides. It’s a Zoom talk and the last one I have in my diary for several months. In fact the next one is supposed to be an in person talk – booked before the pandemic – but whether that will go ahead in that format remains to be seen.
The week ahead is looking fairly busy but with small things of little importance but that are necessary and will take up time. I seem to have weeks like that now and again when I try and get through a lot of tasks that I’ve been putting off or unable to do. It gets them done but makes for a pretty boring week overall. I’ll have to see if I can find a way to put a little bit more life into it!
Whatever you’re going to be getting up to, Stay Safe and Take Care.
I’m writing this on Sunday morning after being woken up at 2.50am, 4am and 5.45am by dogs who: wanted to get on the bed / needed to go for a pee / wanted their breakfast. Suffice to say if this is complete nonsense – or at least more nonsense that usual – you know why.
How are you doing?
We heard on Tuesday that Mum tested positive for coronavirus. So far she’s only showing mild symptoms so our hopes are that she will remain that way. Her test was on the Sunday before so today is the mid-point of what the doctors are saying is her infectious period. We’ve been in touch with her on the phone most days, and I really appreciate the staff in the home, some of whom have also caught the virus, for looking after her and all the other residents during this time. The simple task of taking a phone to Mum and all the rigmarole of changing PPE before and after, sanitising the phone and all the other task they now have to do that they didn’t before must be stressful enough without the added concern that they are constantly at risk of exposure themselves. Standing on our doorsteps clapping (haven’t seen much of that recently) just simply isn’t enough. Carers, nurses and all the other essential workers that we rely on, not just in these times but all the time just are not recognised for what they do and are certainly not appropriately recompensed.
Lockdown life certainly makes things a little quieter. My trips out have been to get groceries and to walk the dogs. The weather put pay to any serious work on the allotment this week, so that was also combined with a dog walk. I’ve been doing a few jobs around the house including repair our back step which had become pretty rotten. I managed to make the repairs with leftover wood and fixings from other projects. I like these little projects where in reality I have no formal training or skills but life has made me wise enough to work out what needs doing and do it.
The rest of my time has been spent thinking about Mum and generally trying to stay sane.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking and cooking this week. I enjoy making our meals from scratch and this week it’s as much been about distracting my brain as anything else. I always have a few basics and change other ingredients around by what I have on the allotment or have bought. The onion and parsnip soup that I mentioned last week, sprout chilli this week. With just the two of us many of these last for a couple of nights and then I move on to something else.
I’ve gotten through another Inspector Morse mystery this week – The Secret of Annexe 3 by Colin Dexter. I wasn’t actually planning on reading another one so soon, but after drifting between other things I picked this one up one evening and read it across a few days. I moved onto a Brother Cadfael – The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters after that which I’m still reading. It’s early days, no one has died yet.
Looking for something to do during lockdown but are tired of jigsaw puzzles – well you could always try this.
Ding Dong (best played with sound). I’m glad he’s gone, I’d have been happier if he’d been sacked after his “eye-test”. My fear is that he’s already done so much damage that it can’t be undone and on January 1st we’ll truly start to see just what a piece of work he really is.
I forgot to mention last week that I’d made some grape jelly. We harvested the relatively small amount of grapes from our vine in the potting shed and converted it to jelly. We ended up with 4 jars. We have also since given it the taste test. It’s pretty good, although I think Ann likes it better than I do. I put some Star Anise in when I was cooking it and this has given it quite a unique taste, I’m not sure I care for it.
I’ve been reading an Inspector Montalbano mystery this week – The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri – and when I finished that I moved straight to an Inspector Morse – The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter. I seem to be wanting to read a lot of mystery novels at the moment. Not sure why, maybe it’s just a part of my brain that wants to be entertained in a certain way.
We’ve also watched a couple of Inspector Morse mysteries on TV as reruns. It seems that the series are being reshown from the beginning, so I’ve set our digibox up to record them as they are shown. It will give us something to watch as we enter the new national lockdown.
Workwise this week has been a round of virtual meetings. I have to say that depending on which client I am talking to their videoconference platform of choice varies. There’s a lot of Zoom and the rest seem to be Teams, with the odd Facetime or Googlehangout for some variety. Of all of them Teams seems to be the worst, although they all have their varying problems, the variety means that I get to experience them all. At the moment I’d much rather use them than have to travel for face-to-face meetings but I’m not convinced that it is a mature technology yet, despite the extensive field testing it’s getting.
Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020
More photos back from the developer this week. This was the black and white roll that I took more or less the same time as the roll of colour that I shared some pics from last week. Anyway some examples from the second roll below.
Work on the allotment has been a bit limited this week due to inclement weather. I’ve managed to do some weeding and some digging to keep things moving in the right direction but that’s about all.
I doubt it will all be over by this time next week, and frankly I still think it could go either way.
So it looks as if we are going back into another National Lockdown, assuming that the Prime Minister can get the new restrictions through Parliament. It’s going to be much harder this time I suspect, and possibly harder for the authorities to enforce.
Greetings from my kitchen, where in between typing these sentences I’m making Green Tomato Chutney. It’s 8am and the smell is amazing boiling down the mix of tomatoes, apples, onions and sultanas to a thick pulpy mix.
This is a little bit of therapy, making something from home grown produce that will take well over an hours to prepare, but will keep me going in chutney for some time. More details below.
I decided yesterday to pick the remaining tomatoes on the allotment to avoid them getting blight – the weather conditions have been right for this the past few days and I don’t want to lose the crop waiting for it to ripen when I could do something with it. It was worth doing too, as I had over 3.5 kgs of tomatoes. I separated off those that will ripen on the window sill and the rest are going to chutney. The recipe I’m using is here. I ended up with 9 full jars which is good going.
In addition to the tomatoes we’ve also been picking more patti-pans and squashes on the allotment this week. Otherwise things are at a bit of a crossroad between seasons where winter crops are growing but not ready yet and summer stuff is coming to an end.
I’ll need to think about my seed order soon too. I got a little caught out by shops being closed due to Covid this year, so am thinking I’ll be order all in one go instead of spreading them out over time from different suppliers like I have in previous years.
After some six weeks of delay by BT they finally got around to turning on our fibre connection this week. I can’t actually say things appear any faster, although theoretically when I test the line the download speed is about four times faster than before. I suspect where I’ll notice it is uploading files as that has increased by an even greater degree. The speed of the wi-fi has of course not changed, so unless I’m hardwired into the router that will determine the speed of most things.
I’ve had some work to do this week. An unexpected commission from a client that I’ve been working on between other things. It reminded me that I need to do something about the library of technical documents that I’ve been building over the last few years. It is all electronic and not stored in the same place, some split across different computers and folders. Ideally I’d like it all in one place as reference materials for future projects, but I need to take some time out to drag it all together, and also to make an appropriate structure for it to sit in. It’s not been top of my list of priorities, but it’s a pain when I need to look for something and it’s often stored in a folder of a project where I lasted worked on it.
I took quite a lot of photos this week, but they were on film, so I can’t share any of them just yet. I have at least posted the roll off for processing, so hopefully there’ll be something to share next time. They’re all standard colour 35mm so no more infrared yet. I also bought a new battery for one of my old film cameras, and am planning to use that next.
When you look at the face of the guy in this video preview and read the title you’re expecting something different to watch actually happens next:
I’ve been reading the Pandemic Kitchen Newsletter this week. You can subscribe for free and I’d recommend it if you are at all interested in cooking. There have only been a couple of editions so far, but you can look at the archives before subscribing if you’re not sure.
I’ve also been finishing the audio book of James Holland’s Battle of Britain. It’s a really good listen with first hand accounts taken from diaries written at the time and starting back with the allied retreat from Dunkirk, through to late 1940.
Schools return this week in most of England. Or at least they do at the time of writing. Given the way the government has handled the whole thing, you have my sympathy if you’re a parent wondering whether you and your children will be safe or are just simply trying to work out exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing! The whole eat out / lose weight; stay home / go to work; algorithm results / teachers results; government approach to organising the proverbial couldn’t be more farcical if it were a situation comedy. Thinking about it, you also have my sympathy if you’re a writer of political comedies and are constantly being out done by the real thing as opposed to the fiction you are trying to write.
That’s it for this week, and if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading. As always stay safe and take care.
If life gives you blackberries and apples, make stewed blackberry and apple.
We’ve been enjoying a healthy crop of blackberries for a few weeks now, but the bramley tree has only just started providing ripe fruit (apples are ripe if they come off the tree in your hand with no effort – if you have to tug leave them be).
On Monday this week we had both, probably the last of the blackberries and the start of the apples. So I rinsed off the blackberries and put them in a pan with a little water (about a tablespoon) just enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning and some of the bramleys – peeled, cored and cut into small chunks. Add sugar to taste – always a difficult thing in our house, Ann likes them really sweet, I like them a bit tart – and simmer over a low heat until the apples start to break down and get soft. Serve warm or allow to cool, with whatever you choose; custard, ice cream; both or chill and serve for breakfast as a compote.
If you have more time you could of course make jam / jelly, chutney, cakes and about a million and one other things.
If last week went quickly, then this week seemed to hang around a lot longer, different things happening but mostly mundane stuff, not a week of excitement. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel like time was passing very quickly?
Austin Kleon wrote about how the coronavirus has changed the perception of time.
Time is running out for me to see comet Neowise though. I’ve had a few tries this last week, and although I’m pretty sure I did see it one evening, the light pollution is so bad here it’s hard to be totally sure.
My tomatoes have turned good, finally producing some good fruit and in reasonable quantity. On the allotment the tomatoes are a little bit further behind but there is still a good lot of fruit forming.
I also harvested our first cauliflower from the allotment this week, not huge but a reasonable size. We had it with some broccoli spears (also from the plot), cooked with some pine nuts and herbs and served with some pasta and feta cheese.
My remaining time on the plot this week has been spent watering and weeding.
Work has been quiet this week, no short notice commissions like last week, but the end of the month so the usual round of billing and admin to do. With it being so quiet at the moment, it doesn’t take long to do.
I’ve been reading a couple of Mick Herron novellas this week (The Drop, The List & The Catch). They’re in the Jackson Lamb series and fill in the gaps between the full books which I’ve enjoyed reading recently. I’ve also been catching up on National Geographic articles from the last couple of months.
My friend David had some poetry published this week – it’s rather good in my opinion, gritty but good. If you’re interested you can read it here.
My Mum has some really good blackberries at her house at the moment and I harvested about half a kilos worth which I turned into a blackberry crumble mid-week. Just perfect served with some ice cream when it comes out of the oven. Even better it lasts for a couple of nights. Looking at the blackberries there might even be enough for round 2 this week.
Well that’s about all I have for this week, another short one. My week ahead is looking quiet. I have to take Wilson back to the vet for his repeat bloods, but otherwise not appointments at the moment. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe!