Monthly Archives: April 2016

Dogs, oranges and apostrophes

You never have a camera when you need one do you?

I’ve just seen Edie the sheep dog leap from the back of the pick-up and run round in a big circle to gather a mixed flock of hens and guinea fowl.

The results were both spectacular and predictable, with one of the guinea fowl ending up on the barn roof and the dog looking perplexed as everyone disappeared in a flurry of beating wings.

There’s nothing wrong with her ancestral need to herd things, but there’s obviously a bit of fine tuning to be done.

Meanwhile I have discovered that a citrus-scented keyboard makes typing a more pleasurable experience. That’s a spin-off from my diet, as I’m now eating more fruit as snacks to kill the urge for biscuits and other bad stuff. The yoga group left some biscuits yesterday and they are still there. Well, most of them are. It seemed rude just to ignore the gift. At one time they would have been gone before I left on Thursday night.

The downside to the citrus-scented keyboard is that I can’t type any questions at the moment as the key that produces question marks is wedged by a piece of orange peel that fell from one of the fruity snacks.

I think the answer is probably to lever the key off gently using a penknife or small screwdriver and to clean underneath. Me, penknife, electrical equipment…

I may wait until Monday. If it dries out I may be able to get it going without further work.

If not, I may be able to work round it. Over the years I’ve managed to get round most of my apostrophe problems by rearranging my words. I mean, how difficult can it be to do without a question mark…


Carry on Baking

You see before you the blog of an unhappy man. I’m short on time and I have somehow managed to consign the hundred or so laboured words of my first attempt to pixelated oblivion. I’m not quite sure how it happened – a flurry of fingers, a wrongly selected key and it just disappeared. I cannot find it.

Today’s session, free from the tyranny of seriousness and sourdough, was a  light-hearted affair featuring an amount of witty repartee and a helping of classic double entendre in the style of the Carry On films. Everyone enjoyed themselves, everyone baked good loaves (though some were of a decidedly rustic nature) and everyone took turns in the jokes about soggy bottoms, or, more rarely, nice firm bottoms.

If you recall our last attempt at Honey and Oatmeal bread, when Gail was away, we produced similar loaves – excellent but rustic – and did it all without needing to resort to smut about bottoms. The session on that occasion was conducted with the reverence and decorum that only a group of middle-aged men can bring to such a proceeding.

I’m not saying anything more, you may draw your own conclusions.

In passing, we had some form of icy snow last night in Screveton (though not around our house in Nottingham) and we now have two bookings confirmed for the craft fair on Open Farm Sunday.

It’s all looking good.


The Jackdaw news is that having found the fat balls under the hedge they managed to empty the fat ball feeder (four balls) between 3.30 on Monday afternoon and our arrival at 9.00 this morning.

The new feeder has so far proved secure against Jackdaws. All four remain in the feeder, and are just a little pecked around the edges. Looks like small birds are eating them, so all is going according to plan.

At 10 pence a ball it’s not really a financial decision, it’s just that they do tend to frighten the smaller birds away. And, to be honest, I don’t like the idea of being outwitted by birds.

The home made loom (made by Men in Sheds following a photo of the wool workshop) seems to be successful, though it’s not quite as large as the ones we used for snood and it looks like it will end up as  a scarf.

We’ve planted a few things, though the wind and temperature are, once again, against us. Today’s seeds include some tomato seeds from Heinz that ASDA sent in the shopping on Monday. We’d ordered so many vegetables for the pizza toppings that they obviously took pity on us so it’s thank you to Heinz and to ASDA.

Ah yes, the pizzas. I made dough for 40 pizzas. I put it in the fridge to chill overnight, having reduced the yeast content to ensure we didn’t have a repeat of 2014 on our hands. Don’t ask.

According to the note in the diary they had to clean the fridge out after the dough…

…I’m not quite sure what the last word is but I get the idea of a last scribbled message as a tide of dough engulfed the writer.






Doctors and days off…

We had a day off yesterday. Well, we had a day at home writing a grant application, which I nearly the same thing. I was called into action for adding grammar and doing the VAT calculations (which is easy when you use a specialist calculator off the internet.) It becomes less easy when you put the figures in the wrong column but we will gloss over that.

I added a link for VAT so that those of you not familiar with it could experience the full tedium of an explanation. According to the link it is less complicated,  and therefore less interesting, than GST

It wasn’t all fun and frolics and VAT of course, I had to make time to trim my beard and visit the doctor. I arrived ten minutes before my appointment and then waited until 35 minutes after the time before getting in. In the old days this would have caused me a degree of annoyance, but these days I take a book and looked on it as a gift of 45 minutes to read my book and calm down after the excitement of the VAT.

This paid off, as my blood pressure was judged to be acceptably low.

Doctors are simple creatures – reduce blood pressure, lose weight, take your tablets and they are happy. I occasionally take them in an interesting symptom to have a look at, as I think they appreciate it.

Going to check the bird feeders now and see what the Jackdaws have done…

Man v Jackdaw

They found the fat balls I hung in the hedge so it’s time for the next phase.

Wilkos have these feeders in for £7, which is the cheapest I’ve been able to find. You get what you pay for but I can’t see that Jackdaws are strong enough to bend the bars so cheap should be good enough.

I’m going to try one and if it works I will buy more.The main worry isn’t if it works but if it acts like a sail in the wind as it gets quite windy out here and it’s quite common to find the feeder pole at an angle of 30 degrees after high winds.

Meanwhile, I suppose I ought to consider alternative foods (as in the peanuts) and whether of not I have the right to feed finches and starve Jackdaws. For the moment though, as Monday morning is not prime time for debating questions of ethics, I will confine myself to trying to outwit them.

It may not be easy.


Musings on Mortality and Muesli

There’s a sort of league table in my mind regarding death.

There are people who have always been dead while I’ve been alive, so not only am I unmoved by Shakespeare’s death, I probably contain several molecules of the man himself.

There are icons from my youth, the people who always seem to have been famous, like the recently deceased Ronnie Corbett. When one of them dies it feels a bit like someone has chipped a bit of me away.

Then there are the others, people like Victoria Wood and Prince, who are uncomfortably close to my age. In the case of Prince, exactly my age.

When my mother reached her early 70s we had to stop here reading the obituaries in the local paper  because most of the people in there were her age or younger and it was starting to worry her.

Anyway, back to Shakespeare, I suppose. I won’t add much to the pile of words, except to say that the best Shakespeare I remember reading was a comic strip of Macbeth in Look and Learn. I think many of them, at least the ones worth reading (by which I mean the ones without all that soppy romance) would benefit from the graphic novel treatment -“Dredd’s Tales from Shakespeare” anyone?

Some trivia for you – Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date (which is why it has been chosen as UNESCO World Book Day) but died 10 days apart. There is no prize for the answer, just the satisfaction of knowing.

As for Don Quixote,  voted the best book ever written by a panel of experts, I can only say  that having recently tried and failed to read it that it would be best served by severe pruning and a murder in the first chapter, preferably Sancho Panza. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before – sorry if I have (it’s my age you know) but I’m a philistine and I like crime fiction. 😉

As for the rest of the day, I’ve taken a booking for two days of visits from a school (5-7 years old – my idea of purgatory as I’m not allowed to mention mummification, the Assize of Bread and Ale or eating guinea pigs). Nor am I allowed to mention Waterloo teeth, guano or CJD/kuru ( in relation to either cannibalism or modern farming practice). How am I supposed to teach with that sort of restriction hanging over me like the sword of Damocles? Which is probably something else I’m not allowed to mention.

It’s not particularly that the subject matter is considered too gruesome (though that probably enters into it) but that I might ask the kids a question they can’t answer. This includes asking why Henry VIII didn’t eat chips of why the Romans didn’t have tomatoes on their pizza.  After all, we wouldn’t want to teach them something would we?

End of rant.

The pictures scattered through the post are taken with the new camera with new batteries. I’ve discovered that you can get 80x zoom sometimes – not sure how I did it but bird pics are bigger as a result. And shakier. If I read the manual (as many of you are probably about to suggest) it would  spoil the surprise of discovery.

The picnic area is next to a local lay-by which has a some interesting plants, interesting birds and an excellent catering van. It also, as you can see, plays hosts to some people who don’t deserve decent facilities.

The Jackdaw is at 80x zoom, and we just picked the first rhubarb of the year.

I had muesli for breakfast as I wanted something smallish in case I set my socket off. Well, actually it was fruit and fibre, but it’s similar and a title with fruit and fibre in it is a difficult beast to tame on the road to alliteration.


A good dentist is hard to find…

I’ve known a few dentists in my time, and in general I have to say that they aren’t the jolliest of men, though many of them seem to have nice cars. If they were put in a police lineout it would be tricky separating a dentist from an undertaker’s mute.

On the other hand, look what they have to work with. After a couple of nasty experiences with dentists I am prone to become a gibbering wreck at the sound of a drill and regard them all as extras from Marathon Man. It can’t be much fun being my dentist.


However, with a touch of humour, a pint of anaesthetic and a very competent use of the pliers, he has completely rehabilitated his profession.

Just a short post today. I’ve been taking co-codamol to fight off the pain that I was told would come when the anaesthetic wore off. So far there is no pain. From that I take it that the pills have done their job. The downside is that I can’t actually feel my head.

On a brighter, and less narcotic note, the camera is working again – it was a combination of high battery use and an inaccurate battery condition icon.

Also, I am wearing a red checked shirt and black trousers today, one to hide the blood and the other because I can. The diet has worked so well that, despite the cheese sandwich dilemma, I have lost a full trouser size and am now comfortable in trousers that I last wore in 2014.

There were definitely three good things to tell you, but I forgot the other.

It’s a bit like the first two signs of old age – bad memory and er… I can’t remember the other one.




These things are sent to try us…

Interesting day.

Dropped Julia off at the hairdresser (don’t know why she can’t just use my clippers but it seems the Ripley look is not considered good on most women). A strange thing just happened, when I looked for photos to link to 98% of Ripley photos seem to feature hair, and lots of it, even though I always picture her as almost bald.  Just shows that you only remember what you want to remember.

Went the long way round to the farm, looking for photo opportunities. Camera ground to a halt.. Grrr! It started switching itself off when I pressed to take the photo and showing an intermittent message about the batteries being empty. They’ve been in five days and taken about 100 shots. Can this be right? Spare batteries are at home so will have to put them in and check before deciding if it is poor battery life or faulty camera.



Got to the farm just as yoga was ending so had a cup of tea with the group and ate some of the chocolate chip cookies that they had left. The Health Mentor people only ask me what I ate in the “last week” and they won’t be ringing for another five weeks so I won’t have to admit to three biscuits. Or even four or five…

They were small biscuits.

After lunch – cheese cobs with red onion jam – it was back to the grind of blogging, emails, writing an information sheet, photos, rang Virtual College to see where our COSHH courses are as they haven’t been emailed to us,  brewing tea and planning the new Quercus marketing plan.

The heron came back – you can just see it by the trees in the bottom right of the photo. Flying birds aren’t a good subject for me.

The Virtual College didn’t fix things in 20 minutes as they promised, but it’s difficult to take a photo of that.

I think that’s about all.

I did consider writing some sarcastic emails but it generally isn’t worth the trouble it causes so I just composed the most caustic answer I could muster, deleted it, and then sent one that said: “Yes, I can do that.”

In the end it’s no skin off my nose if someone wants to show how rude they can be in writing.


I merely hope that they enter their next life as a skin disease.




Busy days and Potato Pizzas

Collect the eggs, feed the lambs, avoid the electric fence round the goats…

It’s been a busy day. We didn’t finish until late last night, after hosting a group of local Brownies for pizza making and nature bling. We also saw one of the leaders make her Brownie Promise. She’s part of a good team – the Brownies were a delight to work with and the leaders did most of the washing up for us.

I managed to fit in a telephone consultation with my weight loss mentor, who thinks I eat too much cheese. I think I’m eating it to avoid eating various sliced meat products, partly through a desire to avoid additives and partly wanting to cut down on meat. This could take some balancing.

I’ve also had  a text to remind me that the dentist awaits me on Friday morning. I suppose it will be OK once it over.

Finally it was time to cook the new pizza recipe, specifically for people who don’t like tomato sauce or cheese.

Potato pizza with onions and rosemary. Well, it would have been if I hadn’t forgotten to put the onions on. Apart from the onions there are a few tweaks to make to the recipe, but it was generally thought to be good. As you can see from the picture, it was a good, fun hands on activity, though some of us need more practice handling dough.

I will put the recipe on the Recipe page over the weekend.



Nature Notes

I say nature notes, but it’s mainly birds and butterflies. I’m trying to learn more about plants and insects but I don’t learn things as quickly as I used to.

We had two Swallows fly by last Thursday and another one yesterday. Working on the basis that one Swallow doesn’t make a summer it looks like we are well on the way. We also saw two House Martins at the weekend.

We have seen more Brimstones in the last week than we saw in the whole of last year. Well, to be accurate, I suppose it is more accurate to say we have had more Brimstone sightings – it could well just be one very active butterfly. The only time I spotted one land…yes, you guessed it…no camera.

The struggle with Jackdaws continues. They have started on the one at the back of the centre now, though it is quite obvious so this isn’t a surprise. The one concealed in the hedge has attracted some good birds, but the Jackdaws have spotted that one too. They don’t bother with it too much, so it might be OK. On the main feeder I’ve replaced the fat balls with peanuts so fat ball consumption is down and the smaller birds are able to eat without disturbance. I’m considering ordering some squirrel-proof fat ball feeders as the next step.

It’s quite strange at the moment. We have a pair of Greenfinches coming to one feeder, and a pair of House Sparrows on another. They used to be so common I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning them, but they have both suffered massive declines since those days and it’s good to think we have a few around.

Meanwhile, we have regular Buzzards over the farm and plenty of Red Kites nearby, as I may have mentioned. In the days of my youth (as I say more and more often these days) I can remember when we had to travel to Wales, Cornwall or the Lake District to see Buzzards, and when there were only 20 pairs of Red Kites in the UK (all in Wales).

The strangest sighting of the week has been a Heron that circled overhead for about ten minutes like a massive bird of prey. I managed to get a few distant shots but as it came closer and gave me a good view my batteries failed and the camera locked. I was not impressed. It perched in a tree for a while (hidden by foliage) before starting to circle and making a raucous cry. I don’t know what it was all about, as we don’t have any significant water about. Later that day it came back for a couple more circuits. It may be some sort of breeding behaviour but who can tell?

Birds can be very strange.