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!

Nest Building TWTW # 70

After last weeks posts the Prime Minister announced a full “lockdown” in the UK. Stay home, only go out for essential items. Our lockdown is not it seems as harsh as those in some other countries, but then our government has been doing it’s own thing with this pandemic from the start. The practicalities of these new rules don’t really bother me that much. It has meant curtailing my usual two dog walks to a single one in the morning, but otherwise I don’t think I’ve been outside of the boundaries of our property for anything since probably last Sunday.

I’ve spent my time mostly working in the mornings, although despite a request from a client for a short briefing note that wasn’t planned, this seems to be slowing down now. My diary is looking decidedly empty of even virtual meetings, and I suspect April will be the quietest month that I’ve had in a very long time.

My afternoons have become a time to do “stuff”. I’ve been cleaning windows, grooming the dog, making bookmarks (more on these two items below), editing video, all sorts of things that normally I’d save for a day off or the weekend. I’ve also been reading and catching up on a few movies.


Since we last spoke I’ve read a couple of books. Bay of Spirits by Farley Mowat and Denali by Ben Moon. The former was after listening to a podcast where the author was name checked for another book which then led me to this book and the latter was a Valentines present. Both were okay but I enjoyed Bay of Spirits more than Denali, probably because of the latter’s subject matter. Whilst I like a good story with a dog, this one’s a bit of a tear jerker and there are elements to it that were a bit too close to home, but don’t let me put you off, both are worth a read.


The best film I watched all week was Malta Story, starring Alec Guinness. As you might be able to guess it’s based on the siege of the island of Malta during WWII, and is an old black and white movie. Sometimes these old movies hold up much better than those made much more recently. Case in point is the other film we watched which was Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon, this just didn’t hold up well.


I wrote about giving Ruby a groom last week. I don’t remember whether I mentioned that we put her cut hair into a bird feeder and hang it in the garden. We do this so that the birds can use it for nest material. I also set up the trail camera in the same tree and caught a few short clips of a Great Tit helping itself to the supply. I suspect they’re building their nest not too far away as he was back fairly frequently throughout the day on Friday.


This is an interesting snippet about the ephemera that you sometimes find in old books. I wrote about this not all that long ago, and I’m also a user of custom bookmarks. I frequently make my own – the picture left is of some that I made from wrapping paper that I had for my birthday – or use something that is to hand. I also frequently have a pencil tucked into a book (Austin Kleon wrote about reading with a pencil), or a pocket notebook in which I’m writing notes. This is one of the things I most love about the kindle is the ability to highlight and save your notations as you’re reading.


And yes electric cars really do produce less CO2 than petrol ones.


Takaya the wolf has been killed.


I managed to get to the allotment on Saturday and planted my potatoes, and did some weeding. There’s a list of jobs that I need to get done, fortunately it seems that going to the allotment is counted as exercise and included in permissible activities in the lockdown.


Well that’s about all I have to say for myself this week. Stay safe wherever you are.

It was Wilson’s 10th birthday this, so this being the internet I’ll leave you with a cute puppy photo.

Allotment & Potting Shed Update 27th June 2019

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.

TWTW # 10 Potato Palooza

After digging the potato trenches last weekend, I finally got my potatoes in the ground this weekend. This is considerably earlier than last year, as this time last year we had snow on the ground, and there was nothing happening on the allotment, but around the end of June / beginning of July we should have some new potatoes to eat.

I also managed to transplant my shallots and get them out, along with sowing a row of carrot seed between them and the over-wintering onions. The smell of the onions and shallots is supposed to disguise the smell of the carrots from the carrot root fly.

I’m also feeling that I have a better idea of the rest of the allotment layout for this year ahead. If the weather holds, I’m going to start sowing some more seed.

I think the season has really started in earnest.

 

I had a meeting mid-week which resulted in a request for a proposal and I completed it on Friday, now I just have to wait and see what happens next.


I spent a morning this week sorting out all of the loose recipes in the kitchen, which I’ve been meaning to do this for such a long time. These are all the printed sheets of paper from recipes off of the internet or those clipped out of newspapers and magazines. They’re now in a nice folder and the shelf in the kitchen is a bit tidier. I had planned to move some of my cookbooks onto the shelf but it is deceptively low. It looks like regular sized cookbooks will fit, but it’s about a centimetre too short and they won’t.


Quick Links 12th December 2016

Each week I’ll try and post quick links to things that I’ve seen, read, inspired me or just sparked my interest in the previous week, with a little background and my thoughts and other things that I’ve been up to in the previous week. Mostly gardening, cooking and environmental stuff but not always.


Life

This past weeks been taken up with catching up on preparations for Christmas. Up until this week I’ve not done anything much in that respect. So putting up lights, writing cards, buying presents etc. etc. have been the order of the day. In between times, there’s still plenty to do in connection with my Dad. I think the latter is going to go without saying for some time.

I can’t say that I am particularly looking forward to Christmas –  but I can’t do much about the timing, as it is what it is – so I guess I’ll just be making the most of it.


Currently Reading

Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer: 2 (The Journals of Thomas Merton) by Thomas Merton [GoodReads].

The Wastelands (Dark Tower III) by Stephen King [GoodReads], ongoing read for an online disucssion group.

When Eight Bells Toll by Alistair MacLean [GoodReads]. By the time this post goes live I expect I will have finished this. It’s a reread too, although I think I was about 13 or 14 when I read it the first time. Despite being published over 50 years ago it stands up really well, great little action novel. I like many of MacLean’s books, but this is one of my favourites.


The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures



Giraffes have been hitting the headlines this week after the IUCN report showing how they have declined in numbers in recent years. The report also shows that there are 24,000 species at risk of extinction in the world. Humans are driving this planet to destruction and without major changes we won’t be able to stop it. It’s not just the exotic species either, everyday we place pressure on an already strained system in the name of “economic growth”. It seems that have more and more money is the answer to everyone’s woes and yet it is the rich who seem to get richer and the poor, poorer. Poverty amongst working people is on the rise in the UK,  and our NHS and elderly social care systems are bordering on collapse. There are sections of society that are also likely to become extinct, the only difference here is it’s one species and eventually the issues will rise up the wealth ladder until poverty and related issues has a wider reach. We seem to have forgotten what is important to society as a whole. Maybe it’s because we don’t use some of those systems, for example most people hope that they will never need the NHS, but wouldn’t you want it to be there when you did? So doesn’t it matter that just because your not using it, it should still be in a good condition in case you do?


 

Making A Quick Potato Salad


Here’s a quick video for making potato salad. Details below.

Makes enough for four people.

You’ll Need:

  • 6 to 8 small / medium sized potatoes
  • Fresh Chives or mint
  • 2 small / medium red onions
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon juice (2 to 3 tablespoons)

To Make:

  1. Prepare the potatoes, peel if needed (if you’re using young new potatoes, they’ll probably just need a scrub and the skins can stay on). Chop them into bite size pieces.
  2. Boil them until they are just soft, be careful not to over-boil, particularly if you are using a fluffy type potato.
  3. When they’re done, drain and put them back into cool water, and allow them to cool down, until they cold enough to handle comfortably with bare hands.
  4. Prepare the onions and chives by chopping into as finer pieces as you can manage, put these into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the potatoes into the mixing bowl, with the onions and chives.
  6. Add some mayonaisse (about 3 or 4 tablespoons), be careful not to add too much, you can always add a little more if needed.
  7. Add a good grind of pepper and salt and the lemon juice.
  8. Mix all together in the bowl, either with clean hands or a couple of large spoons, be careful not to mash the potatoes!
  9. This is ready to serve or can be refrigerated in a covered container for a couple of days.