Progress of Sorts…

Make chicken stew. It’s in the oven. Several hours late.

Soup? Er…just about to do it. Veg are ready but I need to wash a pan as I’ve been storing compost scraps in it for the last few days. Yes, I need to empty a bokashi bucket.

Curry. It won’t take long.

Living room – I’ve moved stuff round, which is related to tidying, though not closely related. More a cousin than a sibling.

Hoover. Perhaps tomorrow.

Meanwhile I have washed up and done the recycling, which I’d forgotten about. I often forget the washing up, though not as much as Number Two son, who is a world class amnesiac. Also watched darts and discussed the finer parts of sports marketing and sponsorship with Number Two son. Had bacon cobs with mushrooms for lunch.

Cut up plastic bottles to make poppies. (and give me an excuse to re-use old photos of poppies).

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Poppies made from plastic bottles

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Poppies and corn wreath

 

 

 

Another Day, Another Plan.

It’s about seven hours since the last post, but I’ve managed to sleep and get Julia to work in that time.

I’m hoping that today will be better in terms of productivity, decluttering and writing.

I’ve just about shaken off the bad cold I had last week and there has been no repeat of the nose bleed. I have a weak nostril that often bleeds when I have colds (maybe two or three times a year – but I consider that “often” for an adult).  It was a notable nosebleed, and though I don’t have a proper marking scale I’d rate it as high volume, short duration. My normal nosebleed is low volume but longer duration. Maybe the anti-coagulants are altering the way my nose bleeds.

Practical advice. Forget pinching the top of the nose or putting your head back or all that stuff. Roll yourself a decent cylinder from tissue and shove that up. You can leave gaps, and you don’t need to ram it home, as it’s a nostril, not a cannon. Just make it big enough to stay in without help. I find it usually stops the bleeding quite quickly.

When I finish this post I’m going to sit and write my plan for today. Top of the list will be “make chicken stew” and second will be “make soup”.  Actually, it may be the other way round, as I need the soup for lunch. Butternut squash and roasted Winter Vegetable Soup is the plan. Ready cut butternut squash was on offer yesterday and the veg are left over from yesterday’s tea.

After that I will “make sweet potato, lentil and chickpea curry” and put it in the fridge for tomorrow, “tidy living room” and “hoover”.

There will be other things too, but I’m just trying to convey an impression of the day, and I don’t want anyone asking me if I’ve done it all. Short lists are better for that sort of thing.

Plans, like blogging, are a good way of delaying work, but they have their uses too. They are a bit like meetings -everyone does them but only some of them are useful. About half of all lists and ninety percent of meetings would have been better if they had never existed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to start that stew.

Publish!

I’ve been struggling today. It’s not that I’m short of subjects, but they are either not suitable, need more work or need photographs. (I have many of the photos I need, but can’t get the card reader to work).

It’s the same with time – I had a list of jobs to do and I’ve been behaving like a startled rabbit. The result is that I made more mess than I started with. Julia  brought back three wooden boxes from her friendly fruit stall, so we now also have more clutter than when we started.

In the end I decided that I’m the only one that demands daily posts so why make my own life a misery with deadlines?

In the end, at 11.59, I pressed the button, loaded the post and then carried on editing.

Am I the only one who does this, making a rod for my own back?

Please tell me I’m not…

 

 

Our Magpies

As I mentioned in the previous post we they have a family of Magpies in the Mencap garden.

During the summer one of the first jobs of the day was often to chase them out of the large polytunnel that the group uses as a workshop. There was nothing we could see that would have been attractive to them, and they don’t seem to nee the shelter or they would still be there.

It’s a mystery, as are the claw marks in the polythene covers. Some of the group are pointing accusing fingers at the Magpies. The scratches are fairly low down, which makes the Magpies unlikely culprits. Anyway, why break in when they know how to use the doors (which are still being left open at the moment).

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Ready for mischief

Other fingers are pointing at the badgers.

The main problem with this is that nobody has seen any badgers. It’s also unlikely they could get past the fence. Their normal method of attack is to charge things until they give way. I’ve seen them smash through fence panels on TV, and I’ve seen the results of them charging into chicken wire on a free range poultry farm.

They have one thought in their head and, as far I know, no feeling in their noses. After one attempt they leave a conical bulge. I imagine that it is the shape of a badger’s face. A couple more tries and they burst through. Unlikely as it seems, this is true and I have seen it. Unfortunately it was in the days before digital cameras.

The farmer who had sited his wire across a badger path without realising it soon got tired of mending it and inserted a door, which he opened every night and closed again every morning. The badgers were happy, the farmer had no mending to do and the chickens were free to range.

All of this suggests that if it was badgers, there wouldn’t be claw marks, just badger-sized holes.

So, not Magpies and not badgers. The mystery deepens.

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Sentry duty

Meanwhile, back at the Magpies, they were round again this morning, parading around, setting look-outs in treetops and looking for mischief. Unlike earlier in the year, when they stripped two cherry trees, there’s not much for them to do at the moment.

 

 

Polytunnel Problems

Intermittent drizzle today. Not the best start.

Julia suffered a large split in the polytunnel yesterday. It’s the one they use for growing, so is really the more important of the two. It hasn’t been re-skinned for years, if ever, and is now both opaque and delicate. All it needed was a gust of wind and it gave way. She used the last of the mending tape on it, but even so, it may not last the winter. It’s quite probable she will open up one day to find a web of mending tape and a few shreds of plastic.

There is a certain amount of suspicion about the role of the Magpie family in all this, as they do treat the tunnels as if they own them (often having to be chased out) and there are areas of damage that could be blamed on them.

The plan is to gather a band of volunteers (maybe persuading a local company to let us have some of their staff as part of their community programme) and to have a re-skinning day next spring. It needs to be a warm, and preferably windless, day, as the plastic is better when warm and flexible. . That’s only half the story of course, and the fund-raising is now looking more urgent than ever.

The other tunnel is used as a workshop and it isn’t so important that you have a proper clear cover on that. Last time we needed a patch we used some plastic sheet that had blown in from a building site. It’s not elegant but it does work and it is frugal, which is one of the guiding principles of running the garden.

We have some seeds for next year, which we have been taking off the front of gardening magazines, and I took a couple of pictures of them this morning. They will be appearing on the group’s Facebook page later, as an example of seeds donated to the group. It’s a subtle way of letting people know that we are looking for donations.

There is a little colour in the beds, though a lot of it comes from grasses, and it is a far cry from the gardens of derrickjknight and tootlepedal . (For the sake of fairness I really should point out that the gardeners are actually Jackie and Mrs T). Next year the plan is to have more flowers – Julia has already planted some rudebekia and verbena bonariensis for next year and is adding winter pansies for spot colour at the moment. . This is partly because colour is always good, and partly because flowers mean pollen, which is good for pollinators. I was interested to see the verbena is said to rival buddleia for feeding butterflies. It’s definitely attractive to them but with its poor flower density compared to buddleia I can’t see it as a serious alternative

That leads on to something we were discussing this morning – the role of the garden.

It has to provide a service for the users, because that’s what it’s there for. That is, in turn, part of the problem, as it would be nice to grow produce for use by users and the cafe. Unfortunately this isn’t a priority – they like having their own bed, they like mowing, they  like painting and they like seeing friends. They will, when pushed, work, but it isn’t a priority and it isn’t overly productive.

If there is fruit or veg to eat at some point they like that, but it isn’t really why they go.

Indeed, the garden is designed round leisure rather than production. With so many small beds and sweeping paths it’s difficult fitting productive beds in, particularly as one polytunnel is used for activities rather than growing.

It’s going to be an interesting year of reconciling different ideas about garden use. And there was Julia thinking she applied for a job involving digging not diplomacy.

A Day of Luck and Spiders

I dropped Julia off at work this morning and, as the day was briefly sunny, came back the long way round. This proved to be a good decision as it enabled me too avoid a terrible tailback and look smug. The two things were not unconnected.

The weather is forecast to be significantly less good for the rest of the day. Hopefully my luck will continue to be good.

I knocked out 350 words about volunteering on my return home, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about and there had been an item on the radio this morning. Unfortunately, despite writing and rewriting (the likely word count was probably at least double the 350 that resulted) I still wasn’t happy with them.

It took so long I was nearly late for my blood test.

Fortunately they were running late so I had time to make an appointment for the flu vaccination clinic. Between 8.00 and 9.00 on a Saturday morning is not the optimal time because it’s our relaxed breakfast morning, with Julia buying fruit from the market and starting work at 11.30. However, I want the jab so I accepted the time.

The luck was clearly starting to leak out of the day.

It took three shots to find a vein today, but it doesn’t really hurt and we had a good laugh about it. Well what else are you going to do, complain to a woman armed with a needle?

I was definitely feeling less lucky, and slightly more leaky by that time when she said:

“Would you like a flu vaccination while you’re here?”

Save a trip to the surgery and have time for a leisurely breakfast – yes I would.

I had to have a different nurse for that. It seems that when you are on Warfarin you need a specially qualified nurse to give you an injection.

You can, it seems, prod me with needles as much as you like, open veins at will and extract blood by the bucketful – that’s OK. But load up with flu vaccine and stick it in a muscle and you need special training.

I had special training in hospital to inject myself with anticoagulants. That took five minutes.

The NHS is a wondrous place.

At that point I had to admit that my luck was improving, as I was vaccinated and had saved time.

After that I called at the parcel office. An irritating family got there just before me and clogged the system up a bit, with two noisy daughters guarding the door while the scrawny father and amply proportioned matriarch blocked the enquiry window. They seemed more than normally concerned by a note they had been sent, telling them pick a parcel up from the office. As they were already in possession of an armful of packages I don’t know why one more was significant.

It was, she thought, a scam facilitated by the theft of her phone on holiday. I don’t  know if it was stolen or not, if she always speaks so much drivel it had probably thrown itself off a cliff.

I’m not sure what sort of scam involves sending the victim a parcel. Possibly one where you post a parcel full of burglars, but I don’t think that’s worked since the Fall of Troy.

Back home I noted a Small White fluttering round the front garden, then a Red Admiral, then a second Red Admiral. By the time I had the camera in action I noticed a massive spider sitting in a web, waiting…

In the end I took pictures of the spider, as it was the most unusual thing. The White flew off, and as I focused on the first Red Admiral they both became skittish and refused to settle.

In the end I think it’s just a female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), and not at all rare. It is, in spider terms, quite big, and I will sleep easier tonight knowing I have something that size guarding my garden.

As I sat down to write this they came back so I went out again.

They flew off as I stalked the first one.

If I spot them again I’m taking a rolled up newspaper and a bottle of glue. That should sort out the skittishness.

And finally – they came back!

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Red Admiral – at last!

No Red Admirals were harmed in the taking of these pictures. Honestly – no glue needed!

Military Sweetheart Brooches

The brooch in the featured image is one of the earlier ones you will see about. It is a hollow silver horseshoe with the dates of the Boer War on the front and a Victorian crown at the top of the badge. It’s actually hallmarked 1904 on the back, but sweethearts can be a bit like that, and aren’t always as accurate as you would like.

The earliest sweethearts date from the 1890s but the first surge of popularity took place during the Boer War (1899 – 1902) then in the Great War things really took off. This is logical when you think there were millions of men in the army, and consequently millions of wives and girlfriends to buy the brooches for.

At this time they also became cheaper and less well made. Brass and enamel sweethearts from this time are very common, as are the ones with plain mother of pearl surrounds.

There were other styles, including ones mounted on rifles and swords (though you’ll have to settle for rifles at the moment as that’s all the photographs I have).

The next step up in terms of quality were the silver rimmed mother of pearl brooches, often stamped “Sterling Silver Rim” on the back. There were also silver badges and silver-rimmed tortoiseshell brooches. The silver ones are often stamped “Silver” or “Sterling” on the back, but the silver rimmed tortoiseshell brooches are usually hallmarked.

These two brooches demonstrate another feature of collecting – the Machine Gun Corps was a war-raised unit and existed from 1915-22. Their brooches are sought after by collectors of Great War memorabilia, despite the fact they shouldn’t be rare –  over 170,000 men served in the corps during the war.

By contrast, the Royal Engineers aren’t a sought after unit as there were so many of them – in August 1917 there were 295,668 men serving in the RE. Despite being common, and made from tortoiseshell, the RE brooch does have a significant advantage over the more desirable MGC brooch – it is hallmarked on the back.

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Hallmarks on the back of the brooch

This allows us to tell that it is sterling silver (the Lion), was hallmarked in London (Leopard’s head) and dates from 1916 (letter a). The maker’s mark “C Bro” is the mark of Corke Brothers and Co.

This is just a brief view of sweethearts – there are other types so, as my photography catches up there may be other posts on the subject.

They have a much closer connection to the men of the Great War than medals, for instance. At least you can be sure that most of these brooches were bought by soldiers and worn by mothers or girlfriends. Sometimes you find one still pinned to its original card, where it has been stored in a drawer for years, but most seem to have been worn.

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Notts and Derby – still on original card

Contrast this with the medals from the Great War. Many, when sold by families, are still in the boxes, having never been worn. My grandfather kept his in a drawer and never showed them to anyone. We all thought that his mother had thrown them out when she threw away his brother’s medals. Having lost a son and a son-in-law, got rid of everything connected with the war and refused to discuss it until the day she died in 1930. Those who died in the war, of course, never even saw their medals.