Monthly Archives: November 2016

Staring boredom in the eye

Today, as you can see from the title, I stared boredom in the eye and it was boredom that looked away first.

The main job was going through hundreds of emails and tidying up the mess that we use as an email system. I have saved the ones that have information I need and will attend to them tomorrow.

Then I went on to the computer and cleaned up the documents folder. I’m not very organised so it took a bit of sorting, but eventually I realised I was on top of the job and after that it seemed to fly by.

With that finished, and all the information I need secured on a flash drive, I decided that it was time to treat myself to some time off so I went across to the men in sheds and cadged a cup of tea.

With the sense of achievement that comes from doing a job I’ve spent weeks avoiding, and the warm glow that comes from a free cup of tea, I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.

Julia is having a day off at a spa with my sister. It’s only a couple of miles from the farm so it seemed pointless driving home so I sat down to act like a martyr at the keyboard. I have a sore back now, from too much crouching over a keyboard, but I am happy. We are meeting up later this evening for a meal before my sister goes home, so no cooking and no washing up. What a result.

I did do a piece on this spa last time she went but that was about a year ago and I can’t find it. This is a nuisance as I will have to find some more links, and because I can’t link back to my own post. Linking back to your own posts, as I may have mentioned in this post, is supposed to be a good way of raising your profile in the blogging world.

Here is a brief history of Eden Hall. Scroll down to Elston Towers to find the information. Several people seemed to have blogged about it – try here, and here.

Before starting work I was even able to take a few photos I needed to finish off a post for the other blog. It doesn’t quite rank as something I’ve been putting off, but I haven’t been as industrious as I would like with the food blog, so it’s good to get another post published.

Now, enthused by my confrontation with boredom, I’m going to organise my camera cards.

 

It rained, we made pom-poms and played balloon ball

It’s rained all day, we don’t feel like using the kitchen because of the internal politics and I’m not eating biscuits.

So what do we do?

Well, we have to feed and water the chickens whatever the weather.

We also had a good moan about various things (centre left in a mess, one of the new toilets out of order, someone has thrown some of our stuff out of the kitchen).

We did a stock take of what we have left in the kitchen.

We picked the last of the chillies and the cape gooseberries

We made pom-poms. I managed 14 today. I explored a method I found on the internet – using a fork to wrap the wool round. I hope these photos explain it. It’s tricky getting it tied tight enough and fitting the scissors in, but it seems to work OK for producing small pom-poms.

A fork with longer tines may have been better (as would sharper scissors) and I’m just wondering how much wool you’d need to wrap a garden fork…

Then we played indoor balloon volleyball/tennis. It’s a game  we invented last year using a large balloon. The rules are not fixed, the umpiring is abysmal and the scoring is random, but it seems to work. So far nobody has died playing, we’ve had no tears, and we haven’t damaged the building (though as we’re under notice to quit I’m not sure I’m bothered).

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Indoor Balloonball – just look at the speed of that serve!

 

As we told the group – only boring people get bored.

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), spam and me

I thought about using the title “What Hemingway taught me about Blogging” but it probably wouldn’t do my Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) much good. (Note how I managed to slip the bulk of the title into the first line. Get used to it, you’ll be seeing it several more times before you get to the end of the page. That’s SEO for you.)

On top of that, he didn’t actually teach me anything about blogging. He taught me lessons about writing, bullfighting and firearms safety, but he’s useless on blogging. Not his fault of course, as it didn’t exist in his day. Even Nostradamus is strangely silent on SEO, despite his claims to see into the future.

My spell-checker just picked up Nostradamus and suggested Stradivarius. I can’t help thinking that the world of violins would be a different place if spell-checkers ran the world.

So, in my customary bumbling way I will now shelve the Hemingway reference for later use (it was going to be a post about land ownership) and move on to SEO.

It’s a rare day when I turn on the computer at work, read the spam, and don’t find at least one offer to improve my place in Google’s rankings by someone claiming to be (a) highly effective and (b) reasonably priced.  I’d take them more seriously if most of them could actually write grammatical English. Call me old-fashioned and curmudgeonly if you want, but if someone is asking for money to improve my written work (albeit by merely inserting key words and links) I’d like to think that they are reasonably competent.

While I’m struggling to work out whether “optimisation” or “optimization” is going to bring better results they are serving up gems of jargon and sentences that look like they’ve used a translation service.

Kindly revert back if you are interested, then we can send you more detail about package/action with special Offer. I look forward to your positive mail.

Still, they write better than the representative of the Libyan Government who got in touch this morning to offer me…

…I suppose he really was from the Libyan Government, and not just spam, I mean he said he was, but the fact he used a gmail account makes me slightly suspicious that he might not be telling the truth.

Ice cream for breakfast

Ice cream must contain all the calcium and vitamins of milk, and with the addition of honey and walnuts it has to be positively healthy. It It also tastes good.

I can’t think why you don’t see it recommended as breakfast more often.

It’s difficult to write a follow-up to that; I’m just sitting here thinking of a brave new world where we have ice cream for breakfast.

At the risk of treating this like Twitter, I think I’ll leave it there, as I really can’t think of anything more to say.

 

Thoughts about renewable energy

I watched The Apprentice last night.

At one time I used to watch in the hope that I might learn something about business. I’ve not learned anything I can use, though I do now know that every year proves there is a seemingly endless supply of idiots.

If I can find a way of converting idiots into electricity I may have found the next big thing in renewable energy.

Talking of which, we drove past another solar farm today.  It seems like every time we drive north from Nottingham we find another new field of black panels. Land use has changed considerably over the last ten years in North Nottinghamshire – first we had willow, then we had miscanthus. Currently we seem to have a small forest of wind turbines springing up and the latest fashion seems to be to cover acres in photovoltaic cells.

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Solar farm in north Nottinghamshire

When I see that I feel more comfortable about using electricity, but then start to worry that we won’t need it, because if we cover the land to generate electricity there will be no food to cook.

I’m a bit worried about food, after listening to a radio programme tonight. In order to halt global warming we need to scale back on meat production (mainly on account of the methane produced by cows) and would, they calculate, only have 19 grams of meat a day. That’s 133g a week, about the weight of two moderate burgers.

In the Second World War the bacon and ham ration ranged between 113 and 227 grams. However, there was also a meat ration, controlled by price – between 1 shilling and 1 shilling and two pence (5 – 6 pence in modern terms). I’m struggling to find a comparison of prices – one I found suggests that could be about £1.50. It’s not a lot, but compared to 19 grams a day it’s a positive feast.

To add to the complexity of looking into the future it also seems that grass fed beef (as generally reared in the UK) is worse for the environment than intensively raised beef fed on maize and soya (as raised in USA). It’s not about the method or the food, it’s about the fact that grass fed beef takes longer to grow to full weight, and thus spends more time emitting methane.

Now, methane is the main component of natural gas, so is it just me, or are other people thinking that some sort of gas-collecting nappy on a cow might be an alternative to fracking? Ah, just me…

That’s not the end to it of course, there’s also milk to consider. If they were telling the truth (and I fear they are) we will only have enough milk for four cups of tea a day.

Four cups of tea a day?

I could see myself as a vegetarian, but I don’t see myself cutting down to four cups a day.

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Under threat – my cup of tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bollywood and black skies

Today we had Bollywood dancing, chickens and black storm clouds, just to name a few things. And pom-poms. They are becoming the bane of my life. Julia says we need 20 per wreath and as everyone will want to make a wreath that’s 140 pom-poms. While Julia and some of the team were out measuring climate data (our penultimate session) I was left in charge of the pom-pom squad. I made six. The other three broke the plastic rings several times, failed to achieve pom-pomness in  a number of different ways and, finally, managed to break the only one they actually made.

Yes, they broke a pom-pom. Not the plastic ring, an actual woolly pom-pom.

That sound you can hear is my spirit breaking.

In the afternoon, with a squad of three, Julia managed four pom-poms.

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Proper free range chickens

The chickens are looking good – we finally have a distinct farmyard flock – feathered in a variety of blacks (from their Minorca fathers) and with a selection of head feathering from their Polish ancestors. They are looking quite distinctive, though they could probably do with a bit of new blood in the coming year as they are all the offspring of one hen and (possibly) two cockerels.

Weather has been iffy, as you can see from the photos, though it hasn’t broken yet, there are still a few autumnal leaves about and our Albanian taxi driver brought us some lemons picked from his father’s orchard when he visited last week. They always look much nicer than shop lemons, which I suspect are selected for thick skin and travelling qualities.  The Albanian lemons always seem thinner skinned and better-flavoured.

Finally, dancing. The whole group is practising for the dance at the Christmas Party. They are full of determination and have been watching instructional videos to get more moves. You have to admire their perseverance and work ethic. Originally just two of them were going to dance, after doing some belly-dancing at a project they attend on Fridays, but it has now spread so we have five dancers.

What with dancing and our rendition of I’ve got a lovely bunch of Coconuts this is going to be a party to remember, even before we get to the song about the coat of many colours.

As you look at the dance photos hum the tune of Jai Ho.

Now try to get it out of your head.

I think my work here is done…

More on Oatcakes and Urban Decay

Stoke on Trent Part 2

By lunchtime it had been a moderate day. We had bought a few pots and photographed a bottle kiln, but the choice was poor and the cafes at two of the shops had closed down.

The success of the day trip was in the balance. Would we have to write it off as a wasted day, or could I, with the help of the trusty tourist map, pull something out of the bag?

Not far away was a group of potteries/shops that we hadn’t visited before, so now was obviously the time to change our habits. After all, we couldn’t make things worse and with satnav, what could possibly go wrong? (Note how I have swung from scepticism to over-confidence in just a few months).

The clue, I feel, is in my use of the word “over-confidence”.

Do you realise that there are still parts of the UK that aren’t accurately served by satnav. I do, because for several years navigating the new course of the A46 near the farm was as tricky as getting out of the Bermuda triangle.

If you ever enter  ST6 3PF into your satnav leave your diary free for a few days and take sandwiches. The route was populated by phantom roundabouts and one-way streets that had not been there when the satnav was programmed. I say that charitably, as the signs on the one way streets looked as if they had been there since before satnav was invented. Maybe it’s a hard life being a street sign in Stoke.

Finally, after photographing some bottle kilns, we found the William Edwards factory shop. This is a small shop on the edge of the factory. It specialises in high quality goods, and is a touch cramped for a fat man. We bought a few mugs for presents and spoke to the excellent lady who ran the shop, who told us that Middleton Pottery was just along the street, and that they had a tea room. See Pies and Prejudice for a fuller account of what happened there. Food was good, there are plenty of activities on site and I’d quite like to work there. However, the shop was even more cramped and pottery was unexciting.

We’ve been to the Gladstone Pottery Museum with the kids before. It was good, with exhibitions on toilets, a model sewer and drawers full of encaustic tiles. I’m not a great one for fine china (as if that’s a surprise to anyone who reads this blog) and if there are two things I love it’s historical toilets and encaustic tiles. I’m not sure if they are still there, and the website doesn’t seem to say, so check before visiting if that’s where your interests lie. The Middleton Pottery offers a factory tour and Victorian office but also has a few wildlife and sustainability tips. It also has a derelict factory at the end of the street.

Finally, thinking we could miss the traffic on the way home, we set off, found another deficiency in the satnav and found ourselves passing the Dudson shop. I nearly carried on, but Julia thought she’d like to look round a shop full of odds and ends of hotel ware. So, U-turn and waste time as traffic builds up…

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s actually got loads of great (brightly coloured) stuff and it’s cheap. It also had plenty of room for fat people and a cheery woman on the till. I bought more there than we bought anywhere else (as you will see when I start photographing food seriously). No tea room, but they do have a museum on another site. They are also in sight of the Moorcroft shop (I managed to keep her out of that one!) and just round the corner from the Moorcroft museum.

The Moorcroft Museum used to be free, and I see from the website that it still is, which I find an admirable quality in a museum. We will be going back to Dudson, and will doubtless fit a Moorcroft visit in, despite the fact I needed oxygen and a bank loan last time we went to the shop.

All that and we still managed to sneak home before the traffic built up too badly.