Tag Archives: volunteers

Answering an Important Question

The beginning of my day has been chronicled, now for the middle bit.

I have done more work today with my new computer set up than I got through in the last three weeks and might actually have some work to submit before the end of the month. I have also done some washing up and made lunch (cheese on toast with baked beans – a well balanced snack, I like to feel). I have also done my bit for the planet by eating the blue cheese. It didn’t start off that way, it was just grated cheddar when I last used it. Julia would have thrown it out, but I am made of sterner stuff. If Stilton is OK to eat, blue cheddar must be OK, according to my logic. That was two hours ago, Julia is home and she has just read me the riot act about it.

So I went to Google. There are many web pages to read, though you may want to avoid those that spell mould as mold. They are American and American medial advice is notoriously over-protective and worried about being sued. I find this strange, coming from a country where they eat squirrels. Try this one.  It’s slightly equivocal, but it seems to me you can eat the mould on cheese and your body can cope with it. Think of it this way – if your body couldn’t cope with a bit of mould you wouldn’t be here.

The main problem isn’t the mould, it’s that I’m lazy and buy my cheese ready grated. And having done this, I use 2/3 of the packet and leave the rest at the back of the fridge for a week.

1820 Crown with some damage. A striking, though not very artistic, rendering.

Julia had an adventurous morning as a race marshal with minimal equipment, unexpected responsibility and no thanks. She did say hello to Richard Whitehead and he said hello back, so at least she had a brush with fame.  Did I ever mention that I was Midland’s Rugby League Volunteer Coordinator of the Year a few years ago. That’s not, despite the grammatical ambiguity, a coordinator who is a volunteer, but someone who coordinates volunteers.  I would just like to put it on record that if I had  treated my volunteers like the Robin Hood Marathon treats theirs, I wouldn’t have won the award, or had any volunteers in my second season.

The photographs are three different ways in which the reverse of a Victorian Crown can be enamelled. I was short on ideas and I like enamelled coins. This is how I make many of my decisions in life. The two undated ones are George IV coins from 1820. I may write a post about enamelled coins at some point in the future.

Enamelled Crown (1887) – good quality enamel work.

Study Number 1 - The Idiot

The Tuesday Tirade

At the moment I’m working four days a week. I have Sunday off, Wednesday off and, at the moment, Tuesday off. I’m three hours short of my normal time, but I get a whole extra day off, which is quite useful. I could really compress my hours into three days and take a second job, but although that would suit me, it wouldn’t be quite as convenient for running the shop.

It’s now time to confess that I didn’t follow up the chance of teaching adults to read, as I said I would a few weeks ago. I meant to, because it’s important, but the application form rubbed me up the wrong way. There were a number of things which jarred, but I can work round that, people who write forms often become a little bossy. However I then reached the bit where it required details of my relevant qualifications and went on to ask for two references, preferably from “people of some standing in the community”.

Well, I don’t have any “relevant qualifications”, which is generally a coded reference to the fact that they are looking for ex-teachers. I’ve had this sort of thing before. I also, to be honest, no longer have any people in my social circle who could possibly be described as having any sort of “standing” in the community.

They are supposedly an organisation which aims, amongst other things, to make people feel good about themselves by redressing their lack of education, and they end up reminding me that I made some bad decisions in the past, lack educational qualifications and, in addition, have no friends of any standing in the community. Even writing about it now I feel depressed and embarrassed about this.

Anyway, I’m giving my time to help people and I will complete a criminal record check before starting work, so why do they need references?

As I say, some people just can’t help being pompous when writing forms. Overlying that is the idea that I’ve seen this all before – people running volunteer schemes or charities because they want to be in charge of something and look important, and they want to make sure all their helpers are the right sort of person. Unfortunately, I’m not.

I’ll tell you what I am though, I’m someone who has done a lot of volunteering, and someone who won a regional award for my work in running volunteer and training schemes.

At the moment I’m waiting to find out what we will be doing in the shop in the long term. When we settle that I’m going to volunteer for a scheme that goes into schools to help kids learn to love reading. In the meantime I’ve set up a payment to donate to them every month.

Sorry if this makes me sound like a bad person but I have experienced several organisations where I wasn’t happy. My time is valuable to me and I’m not going to waste it on the wrong scheme.

And there we go, a rant about people trying to do good in the community. I really am a nasty piece of work.

When all is said and done…

…more is said than is ever done.

Yes, I’ve found a new formula for titles, though I have to admit that it’s tinged with the same old cynicism. I’m sure that anyone who has ever had to work with groups and volunteers will be familiar with the sentiment behind the title.

It is possibly best summed up by a statement I once heard at a meeting. They used to love meetings on the farm and had a great capacity for attracting people who were distinguished by a talent for empty talk. One of those people actually told us that their talent was for having ideas. I hadn’t, until that time, thought of that as a talent. Volunteers with ideas are ten a penny. Volunteers who actually carry their ideas through have a price beyond rubies.

To be fair, I’ve worked with some great groups of volunteers. Obviously, today was one of the days when I found my thoughts dwelling on the ones who weren’t so great.

It’s been that sort of day, but least said, soonest mended.

I had an unexpected day off today, as I worked yesterday. We are still not back to full time working.



Things started to go badly when Julia couldn’t find her keys to the gardens. It led to half an hour of muttering and moving things. I couldn’t help, as I (a) couldn’t remember where she’d had them and (b) when I advise her to try to remember her movements she goes ballistic. She could, if I’m honest, be better at taking advice.

To cut a long story short, I gave up a portion of my day off to borrow a set of keys and get a new set cut. Then, because I clearly hadn’t had enough fun, I went back to get two of them re-cut. You’d think cutting keys properly with a modern machine would be simple enough, but clearly not.

It was too late to do much by then, so I made the decision to give up on the rest of my day off, made Julia share her sandwiches, waited round, did a few odd jobs and generally wasted the rest of the afternoon until it was time to give her a lift home.



To be honest, I have had better days.

Guess what happened on the way home?

That’s right, Julia remembered where she had put her keys…



Nottingham Badges of the Great War

I’ve been taking pictures of Nottingham-related badges recently. You probably guessed that from the photographs of Nottingham-related badges in this post.

The “Comforts for Troops” badge in the header picture opens up some interesting sites on the net, including this one, with the story of Beatrice Whitby, who seems to have been an exceptional woman, even from the age of eleven. Interestingly, given the times in which she grew up, she did all that work without even having the right to vote.

There is an archive preserved in the Imperial War Museum, which includes many personal papers, and 209 postcards from soldiers who received parcels from the fund whilst prisoners of war. I will let you read the link if you want more detail, for now I will just say that they sent 40,000 parcels to prisoners of war, which was a huge effort.

My Dad and his two brothers raised money for comforts, with a penny a week fund and various other events during the Second World War,  so this is an area that I’m quite interested in.  Dad never mentioned it, I found out by accident when researching  family history in newspapers a few months ago.

This is an Australian article on knitted comforts as I can’t find anything on knitted comforts from Nottinghamshire. It’s interesting, though it does seem a bit ungrateful in places when discussing the quality of socks.

I can’t find anything on the Relatives Association badge so far, or the Hospital badge, though I can tell you that I bought the badge in a mixed lot at the J. Tanenbaum Collection at Neales Auction (Nottingham) on 28 February 1991. It was incidental to the things I actually wanted and it was the badge that set me off collecting badges, so it has a lot to answer for.

Retired teachers wanted – Nottingham Area

This is a request from Gail (better known as the Bread Lady to regular readers). She is working with a group helping refugees, teaching kitchen skills, and mentioned that they need teachers to help improve the English skills of their clients.

I can kill two birds with one stone by blogging with that title, as it is also the title that appears on Twitter.

So if you are a retired teacher from the Nottingham area, or know of any retired teachers from the area, let me know if you can spend a few hours teaching English to refugees.You can, of course, also volunteer even if you aren’t retired or a teacher. I’m sure she’ll be happy to accept help from anyone with a few hours to spare.

I’ll leave it there for now, as I still have  along list of jobs to do (having been diverted by making the blanks for 35 masks for tomorrow’s visit. I’m not good with a glue gun, and progress was not swift. However, I did end up with 35 masks. I also have burnt finger tips, glue on my clothes and a spider web of glue trails all over the place.

As Julia said: “You can’t get the help these days.”


Weeds and flowers

A good garden may have some weeds.
Thomas Fuller (1608-61)

We’ve had a couple of sets of volunteer gardeners helping us in the last few weeks.  As  a result, the beds are spick and span and weeded and pruned to within an inch of their life.

That’s not, as you may have gathered, my way of gardening.

I’m now having to travel further for my nettles and there is no chickweed or ground ivy at all. It will come back, but for the moment my tour of the edible garden has been reduced to a shadow of what it once was.

At least they didn’t try to weed the buddleias out this year. We’ve had to stop people doing that twice before. My view is that if it’s six feet tall with two inch wide stems, I have seen it and I would have removed it if I wanted it gone.

All in all, despite the pain of the missing foodstuffs, I have to say that it’s very good of people to give up their time and that the majority of the garden is much improved as a result of their work. (There you are, I don’t moan about everything, do I?)

Despite the clay and the wind and the lack of budget the beds are actually looking good this year. We will have to move some things around and do some drastic culling at some point but it’s now looking like a garden.  The periwinkle that started out as a 50p rescue plant from the “almost dead” bargain area of a garden centre is now threatening to take over an entire bed after just two years and has already contributed cuttings to a dozen other beds. The ice plants from the same place are also thriving, though not to the same extent. They do have one advantage over the periwinkle though, the leaves taste of avocado, cucumber or citrus, depending on the day. So at least one edible plant has survived the massacre.

And for the sake of symmetry, let us finish with another quote from Thomas Fuller.

One that would have the fruit must climb the tree.

Sounds impressive but ignores the existence of ladders.

Here today and scones tomorrow

It was scone day today and we now have several hundred scones cooling in the kitchen. Later we will vacuum pack them and freeze them ready for Open Farm Sunday. I can recommend them highly because I’ve been helping to dispose of the “rejects” and had the opportunity to check several.

When refreshed by a few minutes in a warm oven on Sunday 5th June they will be superb.

Once again it’s a case of thanking the volunteers, some of whom will be away on the day so won’t even get to eat one. Without the bread group we would be a poorer place, both morally and financially, as the tea room they run is our big earner on Open Farm Sunday.

My contribution was limited to photography and gluttony.

I’m currently finishing off the drying of a hundred salt-dough animal shapes because we’ve used all the 65 I made last time. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I hadn’t realised how much time it would take. I am, however rolling it thinner. The hundred have come from the same amount of dough that only made 65 in the previous batch.

Tomorrow I have to produce at least another 100 is we are to have anything like enough for Open Farm Sunday.

Have I mentioned Open Farm Sunday? It’s on June 5th and it’s a good day out.

Email office@farmeco.co.uk for details of the day. The Bread Group is doing ciabatta in two weeks if anyone fancies popping along – use the same contact address to check we have room.

Men, manure and middle-age

It is a truth universally acknowledged, as Jane Austen never wrote, that a middle-aged man in possession of a bladder will never need an alarm clock.

And so it happened that although I passed the night with neither clock nor phone to wake me, I woke at 7 am without a problem.

And 5.30 am and 3 am.

I normally set the clock anyway but the battery has gone dead, and my phone was also out of juice, so I relied on nature and it didn’t fail me. It was actually one of the more relaxed nights I have spent recently, as we didn’t need to be at work until around 11.00, allowing us time to get up, shop and have breakfast out (which was an error – the TESCO cafe staff, as usual, lacked energy whilst the cafe itself lacked tea. There were no working hot water machines, and, according to the staff, no kettle. That’s worse than a pub with no beer.).

When we got to work we found that the volunteers from Capital One were hard at work, and had nearly completed the raised bed in the large polytunnel. It brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. It is a beautiful bed made from straw bales and filled with a variety of materials, including a lot of well-rotted pig muck. We’ve been trying to get it done for several years but there’s always been a problem, so it was great to see it completed.

It was a bitter-sweet moment: seeing the beautiful raised bed, yet knowing that the plan for next year is to let the Allotment Club use it. So there I was with my nose pressed up against the polythene like a kid at a sweetshop window. So close, and yet so far!

To be honest, the pleasure of seeing the bed outweighs the sense of loss. I’m already making plans for next year and I far prefer planning to actual gardening.


Men and manure in perfect harmony

Good day: rubbish title!


Interesting day. Weatherwise we had some threatening clouds, a couple of sharp downpours and some sticky interludes. In terms of visitors we had a couple of random cyclists and a group of walkers round so I did a bit of promotion and talked about pizza ovens. Then I had a potential volunteer come to visit. We’ve arranged for her to come back in a few weeks time and she’s said she’s happy to help with some gardening, despite seeing the effort that will be needed. I’m not sure whether to be happy or worry about her sanity. I must say that the prospect of some help has lightened my mood a little.


This week has really seen the butterflies emerge. We’ve also had plenty of bees and today we had hoverflies. It’s nice when a plan works out and people have been commenting on the number of pollinators we’re attracting so we must be doing something right.


We have a plan for some mini-ponds now. We’ve always had the idea in mind but it’s taken some time to find out how to build something we’ll be happy with. This week we had an email from  Mark Ridsdill Smith detailing exactly the sort of pond we’re aiming for. We have various plastic containers, gravel, rocks and rain water so that’s about it – no excuses now.

A gift of chamomile

I walked out of the house a couple of days ago to find this by the side of the step. It’s not the most luxuriant, or the straightest, flower in the street, but neither were many of the others we’ve been given over the years. When you think that our gardens at the farm are mainly grown from gifts, it’s amazing what a few donated flowers can do.


We’re very lucky having a neighbour across the road who gives us plants on a regular basis – her donations must exceed every other source of plants we have, and this was one of them. I’d been moaning that I’d had to pull some chamomile out of the allotment and that the weather wasn’t conducive to transplanting.


This bed here is almost entirely flowers that have been donated, rescued from compost or grown from cuttings. And poppies. WE have a lot of poppies.If the sun comes out again today I’ll take an up-to-date shot to show you how it’s coming along.

So what I’m saying, I suppose, is thanks to the people who help us, we couldn’t do it without your help. That includes everyone who reads the blog, because it’s about encouragement as much as anything.