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.

Life is a Rollercoaster TWTW # 117

This week has been full of ups and downs. It was my birthday on Tuesday. The weather was amazing. There was cake and presents; you know a fairly typical birthday, or at least as far as possible in pandemic times. Things went on the downslope a bit after that.

I had to go out in the car, I used the opportunity to drop off a birthday parcel for someone else at the sorting office and then headed for the motorway. As I pulled onto the slip road the dashboard lights came on. They weren’t the “!STOP NOW!” kind so I made it one junction and pulled off. I was able to come home via the backroads to my local garage. That’s where the car is now. They’re going to try and look at it soon, at least to diagnose what might be wrong, but they’re really busy and short-staffed at the moment and so probably won’t get to it until later this coming week. I have a sinking feeling about it this time that might mean the car is beyond a sensible repair bill. It’s around about 18 years old so I can’t grumble as I’ve had good service from it. I was hoping it might last a little bit longer though as I’d really like to go to an electric car next but currently they’re a little beyond my financial means. I’d also like to consider not owning a car at all any more but again there isn’t quite the infrastructure locally to support that for us. So for the time being we’re going to see what the garage has to say. It might be something simple (fingers-crossed) and we’ll be back on the road again. If not then we’ll have to reassess our options.

Later on that same evening the dog bowl that our dog has had since we first got him was knocked off of the draining board and broke on the kitchen floor. That was just another emotional kick from a shite day.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King, which was a birthday present. It’s good stuff and although the focus is on the latter period of Monet’s life it covers a lot of his life overall so is a fascinating read.

I’m also looking forward to reading Together by Luke Hawker when it’s published – video below.

If you enjoy reading newsletters, Mike Sizemore has a new one out and it’s pretty good. Great story about a bear in the first edition. You can sign up and read the archive here.



Watching. We’ve been watching The Terror this week.

It’s being shown on the BBC, having I think previously been on Netflix, so we’re a bit late to the party. Although I didn’t realise until I came to type this up, that what we’re watching is season one and there is a second season. The premise is based on what might have happened to the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus when they disappeared when scouting for the Northwest Passage in 1848. The wrecks of the two ships were found in 2014 and 2016, but as to what actually happened nothing is known. The TV series is based on the book by Dan Simmons. The second season is about another story. I have to say that while is started out well we both started loosing interest in it about three-quarters of the way through and although we watched to the end I don’t think we would have been too bothered if we’d stopped early.


Allotment. Although we’ve had some stellar weather this week, we’ve also had quite a bit of wind and rain too. Pretty typical March. I went down to the plot early this morning when I was walking the dogs and it’s back to being too wet to dig again. I have however managed to sow some seeds this week and plant some onion sets into modules, so although there isn’t much to show, there are at least things in the pipeline as it were.


Work. A quiet week this week, which was planned due to the birthday but fortunate given the car situation. I did however get another booking for an allotment talk. This one isn’t until May but I do have one the week after next so will be prepping my slides over the next few days, as I want to make some adjustments. Having given this talk on Zoom a couple of times now there are some things that I want to change so that they work better.


The news is quite full of articles of the type “a year ago today” in recognition of the anniversary of the pandemic. Oddly it really started much earlier than that but the media and the government were both asleep at the wheel when it came to realising what was going on and how serious it would become and how quickly. I was having a look back through my journal and there are a few highlights that at the time were routine things but now are oddly milestones. For example the last time I had an in person work meeting was 7th March 2020. After that everything switched to phone and video calls. I think I might keep that retrospective up over the next couple of months as we come out of lockdown # 3 as at the time we were just going into lockdown # 1. The Prime Minister seems to think that this will be the last lockdown. I’m not sure I have the confidence in his abilities to believe him (we’ve been there before after all).

By coincidence the artist / writer Austin Kleon has also been doing the same.


Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe and well!

Sowing Seeds

IMG_20160409_112851

It’s that time of the year, when spring is arriving and the ground is warming up and it’s time to sow some seeds directly on the allotment. I thought it might be useful to share the method that I use. It works for me, on my allotment, but there are other hints and tips, and some seeds need to be sown in other ways, but generally speaking for pretty much everything that I sow from seed directly into the ground this is the method that I use. Last weekend I sowed parsnip, turnip and radish. Let me walk you through the sowing of the parsnips.

IMG_20160409_092754119Firstly, read the seed packet.

I know I said that I use the same method, and I do, but you need to check there is nothing special about the seed that you’re sowing. Some seeds come “coated”, which can irritate your skin, and it’s advisable to wear gloves.

More simply you want to make sure that you’re sowing your seeds at the right time, and that you space them correctly and know whether you’re going to need to thin them or any other ongoing care that you’ll need to provide once they’ve germinated.

IMG_20160409_092453082Next I mark out where I’m going to sow.

Normally this is a straight row. I use a line, pegged at either end to keep it taught, and to stop it moving around.

This helps me to keep the row straight during the next step, and also gives me a guide as to where the seed is going. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s only a guide!

IMG_20160409_092530579I then run the narrow end of my adze alongside the line to create a drill.

I’ve had this tool for a while, and it was given to me by someone who couldn’t find a use for it. It’s perfect for this job, and depending on how deep or wide I need the drill to be, I’ll use one end or the other. For the parsnips I only need a narrow, shallow drill so I used the smaller, narrower end.

IMG_20160409_092922116Once I’ve made my drill, I water it.

I do this before the seeds go in. This means that the seeds are going onto slightly damp soil, which stops them from blowing out of the drill if it’s windy, and also aids germination.

I’ll still water them again when the seeds are sown, this is a pre-sowing water.

IMG_20160409_093250081Next I’ll sow the seeds, following the seeds, following the packet instructions, but also using my own experience and knowledge.

As these are parsnips I tend to sow more densely than recommended, because germination is notoriously poor with most varieties of parsnips. If they go the other way, and they all come up, then I’ll have more thinning out to do later, but that is preferable to having more germination or patchy rows taking up a lot of space for very few plants.

IMG_20160409_093422269Finally I’ll mark the row at each end, with the seed type and the date. I also keep a record of what I’ve sown when in my notebook, just so I can keep an eye on when things should start to appear.

Then I’ll remove the line, backfill the drill by scraping the soil back over with a rake, and water covered-over drill well. I’ll do this even if rain is forecast, as often forecasts are wrong.

That’s it. Simple. On to the next row, and next seed type.

Do you have any tried and tested methods that work for you? If so leave me a comment below, I’d like to hear what they are and maybe try them myself.

 

Lifting Dahlias 

  
I’ve had one job on the allotment that’s been outstanding for a few weeks, and that’s to lift the dahlia tubers before the frost gets to them.

I sowed the dahlias from seed at the start of the season and they’ve been flowering well into October, but the forecast for the weekend is for frost and snow. Whilst the latter didn’t materialise, it was cold last night so I went off to th plot this morning specifically to get this task done.

The weather was pretty unpleasant, raining, windy and cold, but it only took a matter of minutes to lift the tubers, remove the remaining top growth and excess soil and they’re ready to store until next season. They’re too small to split at present but I have got 7 tubers from my packet of seed. A job well done.

  

Planning For Next Year

IMG_0727.JPG We had our first frost last night, the signs that autumn is truly upon us.

The allotment is winding down now. There’s still lots to do in preparation for next year, but in terms of crops most things are coming to the end. I’ve still got beans up, but only to let them dry and go to seed, and there are still courgettes, squashes and pumpkins. I’ve also got my garlic in, this needs several consecutive cold nights to properly set bulbs for next year, so hopefully this should have plenty of time.

I’ve sown some overwintering broad beans. I used to do this each year but stopped a couple of years ago, as I lost them to winters that were either very cold or wet. I’m gambling that we will have a mild, and hopefully relatively dry winter, and I’ll have an early broad bean crop. If they don’t survive I’m not too bothered as they’re in an area where I want some winter cover, so they’ll provide that if nothing else. I’ll sow more in spring regardless.

The allotment shop took delivery of its seed order this week, and so I made sure I was at the front of the queue to stock up. The above is just a sampling of what I’ll be growing next year, I still need to get runner beans and a few other things before spring.

IMG_0728.JPG Speaking of pumpkins, I made pumpkin soup last night. It was fantastic, if I do say so myself, and the good news is there was enough for this evening as well. This is what an allotment is all about – fork to fork.

I also had a practice ahead of Halloween.

IMG_0729.JPG