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!
Time passes slowly in lockdown but I’ll admit to a little surprise that it’s the end of January already. I suspect I have that same feeling each year but it’s a milestone that moves me closer to lighter mornings again, and that is always a good thing.
I’ve been paying attention to the silhouettes of trees on our morning dog walks this week. In that moment before sunrise when there is enough light to distinguish a tree from the background gloom but not enough to properly make out the details, the texture of the trunk etc.
Had a batch of cards delivered this week from Iain Welch. I’ve been trying to support more independent artists during the successive lockdown periods and I’d recommend Iain’s cards if you’re looking for something dognified. I used his Christmas cards this last year and wanted to restock some of the others that we’ve used up for various things. I’d recommend them and also following him on Instagram for a daily dose of cheer.
Reading. I’ve been dipping in and out of a lot of things this week, some Betjeman, some more Morse stories, but I haven’t stuck with any of them yet. I think in part that’s due to tiredness, having had a couple of sleepless nights I’ve not read in the afternoons or evenings when I often read because I’ve been too tired.
Watching. We’ve been dipping back into the old Inspector Morse’s a lot this past week, I think we’ve probably watched three or four of them as well as another couple of episodes of Endeavour.
I did enjoy watching the video below:
Allotment. Another mostly washed out week, I’ve harvested a few leeks for a stew, but haven’t been able to do much else. A bag of onion sets arrived in the post which I’ll be planting into modules and keeping indoors or in the potting shed until the weather improves a bit and the risk of frost is much lower.
Well that’s about it for this week. As always stay safe and take care.
My mornings start with a walk in the dark, and a sunrise.
It’s normally my practice to drop things into these posts during the week, but this week I don’t seem to have added anything other than the Star Wars fan video below (worth a watch if your a Star Wars fan).
That’s probably a good summary of my week as a whole, time has passed but there hasn’t particularly been much to show for it. I have had a few good rants about the Government and their lies; particularly around the provision of food parcels for school kids under the poverty line, the ongoing pandemic response, and the Prime Minister’s lies. I’ve written a good few thousand words about these things, but in honesty it doesn’t help me, I thought it might have been a bit cathartic but I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I’ve just deleted them without saving. I’d rather focus on some good things, I’m sure it’s been said that we should get angry and stay angry but does that really help? We control how we react to a given situation and anger isn’t exactly a helpful emotion. There are better ways.
Reading. I read Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly this week. In keeping with trying to read books that I already own rather than buying new. I found it quite hard going and nearly gave up on it a couple of times, although I think it’s probably a good book I think this was perhaps just not where my head was at. Haven’t picked up anything else since.
I am really enjoying Alastair Humphreys’ adventures around his OS map, it’s inspired me to do something similar myself. Here’s his latest post if you fancy a read, you can find a link to them all within that post.
Watching. We’ve been rewatching the penultimate season of Game of Thrones this week before watching the final season. We had some vouchers for Christmas and have used some of them to buy the final season now that it’s come down a bit in price. I was surprised by the things I didn’t remember being in this season and also by what I do remember but not the order things happened in. Looking forward to seeing how it all ends up and in the current political situation, this quote seemed quite apt:
When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.Jon Snow – Game of Thrones
Work. I’ve been talking to a couple of potential clients this week. I’m not sure that anything will come of these discussions but you never know. I’ve also been making sure that my expenses and other financial details are up to date as the year end approaches. It’s been a quiet year and I’ve not made very much money at all, but I’ll still have to go through the process of tax returns etc.
An enquiry about an online allotment talk might put something in my diary for the coming weeks though.
That’s all from me this week. Stay safe and take care.
So you might be on an extended spell of working from home or self-isolating due to the Coronavirus. If you’re not already used to the home working or hermit lifestyle it can be a bit of a shock to the system.
I thought therefore that I’d post a few links to books, tv shows, podcast and other things that I’ve enjoyed that might be new to you and perhaps give you some alternative options. I’ve tried to limit things to those that can be accessed electronically without having to leave the house.
I hope you’ll find the list useful and will give something on it a try, but do leave me some feedback on your recommendations in the comments.
I like reading crime, natural history, travel and some science fiction, but here are a few things that you might enjoy.
Mick Herron – Slow Horses. This is the first book in a series, and although I’ve enjoyed the later books in the series more you probably should start at the first in the series. Slow Horses are MI5 agents who have screwed up in some way but can’t be sacked therefore they have been sidelined in the hope that they will quit. Good stuff and worth a read.
Lars Mytting – Sixteen Trees of the Somme. A mystery but not really a crime novel per se. Family history, tragedy, intrigue blended to make a great story.
David Quammen – Spillover. If you want to know a bit more about how pandemics start this is worth a read, sobering and very relevant to the current situation but well researched and written without being sensationalist.
Pico Iyer – Autumn Light. This travel writers semi-autobiographical tale of his life in Japan during a year that has big changes for him and his family. Beautifully observed and written.
Films & TV
I rarely remember the things that I’ve watched or seen recently, so for something to stick in my head generally means I really enjoyed it. Here’s some of those suggestions:
Bosch – Based on the books by author Michael Connelly. Five seasons available with a sixth coming soon, so if you like it there’s a bit to binge watch.
Longmire – Another book to tv series this time Craig Johnsons Walt Longmire brought to life by Robert Taylor. Again several seasons available although I preferred the earlier seasons.
Good Omens – From the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (I sense a bit of a theme running in this section), and produced by Neil Gaiman. The tale of the end of the world – maybe – as an angel and a devil join forces to prevent armageddon.
Audio / Podcasts
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward & The Whisperer in Darkness – Written by Julian Simpson these are excellent blendings of HP Lovecraft for modern times. There’s a third season coming later this year.
99% Invisible – I love the stories in this podcast, different every week not all of them have been “my thing” but I’ve still enjoyed nearly every one and learnt things I never thought I would.
Nature Table – Everything you wanted to know about the natural world but were afraid to ask. The weird and wacky in nature bought to you by host Sue Perkins and a range of special guests.
I’ve finally managed to get to the allotment when there was nobody else around and record a video there, and tag a visit to the potting shed on the end.
Although the allotment is technically a public place and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t film there, I feel that in some ways I’m invading the privacy of the other plot holders by catching them in a video, even though they probably won’t know or ever see it.
Anyway here’s an update from the plot and potting shed, I hope you enjoy.
It’s also been blessed by being mostly warm and dry for the better part of the week, with a little rain at the weekend to help the garden and the allotment along. I can’t complain.
It’s been a week of books this week. It started on Monday went I had to go into town to run a few errands and I popped into the library to look for a book that my other half wanted to read. They didn’t have it, but by chance I was looking to see if they had any Maigret books on their shelves – I always look, but am usually disappointed – and they had two. I’ve mentioned it before but Maigret has become a bit of a thing for me, and these two (Maigret, Lognon & the Gangsters and Maigret & the Reluctant Witnesses) didn’t take long for me to read. I had a reasonably long journey on Thursday and finished the second one on the train. I’ll take them back this week and see what else they have.
I also received a surprise from E&T Books – “The Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt. I’ve reviewed a few books for E&T and this one came in the post and I am about halfway through. I’ll post a separate review when I’ve finished it. Finally Nigel Slater’s latest cookbook “Greenfeast” came. This is actually a two part set, and this volume covers Spring and Summer. Autumn and Winter is out later this year. It’s a lovely book, although I haven’t had a chance to indulge properly yet!
On Tuesday morning I was walking the dogs along the creek when we chanced upon a Hedgehog. Haven’t seen one in a while, and a little surprising that it was out so late (they’re mostly nocturnal). Normally this isn’t a good sign, as it means they are staying out to find food, but this one seemed to healthy enough and was of a good size so I left it be.
Had a bit of a bread adventure at the weekend too. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread for a while. Well last week we had a bit a of a lack lustre starter mix, that although it turn out a nice loaf, it didn’t really seem to rise all that much. Anyway, as is my habit, the leftover starter went into the fridge in a Kilner jar for the next time. On Saturday morning I noticed that the starter in the jar was rising at quite a fast rate (normally there is very little or no rise when it’s in the fridge). When I checked on it a little bit later in the day it had risen even more, and was into the lid of the Kilner jar.
I thought that I should take it out of the fridge and release some of the pressure from the jar, which I did and the jar open with a loud pop, and the starter started to ooze over the edge of the jar.
I decided to use some of this to make another loaf, so I measured up my ingredients and put the remaining starter back into the fridge (where it has been behaving itself since). I must have made a mistake with the measurements however, as the resulting dough was very wet. Too wet to do anything much with, so I had to add extra flour, which I did and kneaded in, and then put to one side for a final rise.
It worked out okay in the end, even though I’m still not sure how this happened I got a good loaf out of it.
It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.
It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.
I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.
My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.
Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.
I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.
Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.
Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I was given a Pineider Ink Filler (portable ink well) as a birthday present a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had a chance to use it a bit and I have to say for the price (about £20), it’s a great bit of kit. Only downside I can see is the top stopper and how durable that will be in the longer term.
Mine was purchased from Cult Pens but other stationery suppliers are available.
Now that I’ve used it a bit I thought I’d do a short demonstration and review video. You can find the video below.