Tag Archives: worms

Blood, worms and British Telecom

I regretfully parted with more of the red stuff yesterday morning. The phlebotomist stuck me in the painful place they’ve been using recently and drew three quarters of a tube before tutting, fiddling about and, finally, throwing the tube away. It was, it seems, not working properly.

For those of you not familiar with modern blood-letting, it is no longer necessary to put blood in a tube as it was when I first started. These days they have a tube that sucks the blood out. Or, in this case, sucks most of the blood out then stops.

If it doesn’t draw enough blood they can’t do the test, so they had to re-stab my arm and take another tube.

If I had a bad day, it was nothing compared to the bad day that a number of worms were having. After the night of constant rain there were dozens of large fat worms crawling around the footpaths. I’m not sure where they all came from, or why they decide that the footpath is suddenly the place to be.

What I do know is that when I arrived at hospital at 8.04, they were alive and mobile. When I left at 8.44 many of them were lying dead in the rain.

I blame the carelessly placed feet of the multitude of bustling NHS staff that always seem to be late for work as I make my way slowly along the path. It’s a rare day when I’m not overtaken by at least half a dozen of them as I hobble to Phlebotomy.

I have no evidence for this, as I wasn’t actually watching, but they are the only people likely to have the speed to trample worms underfoot. The rest of us move slower.

When you think about it the average worm is doing more for the planet than the average human, so we ought to take more care of them.

Meanwhile, talking of lowly creatures, and people who contribute nothing to the well-being of the planet, BT still hasn’t moved the shop phone number. They have, however, cut off the old number as of Monday, so we currently have a phone line and a number nobody knows.

Tuesday’s development was a letter informing us that they are going to provide us with an ex-directory number free of charge, because that’s what you want when you have a shop – a phone number that nobody can see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The shop front – with telephone number

 

 

Desert Island Blogs (3)

The moment of truth. The acid test. The place where cliches come to die…

Part 1 was easy as the three bloggers have all become part of my daily life over the last few years and with eight slots that still left five. Part 2 was harder. The blogs are also part of my blogging life, but the choices had to be made against a background of declining availability. I’m happy that all the choices are good, I’m just concerned that I only have two slots left to go and more than two blogs to fit in.

From Lancashire we moved to Lincolnshire. In phonetic terms it wasn’t a great change, but in terms of weather it was a revelation. In Lincolnshire they have weeks where there is no rain.

They also had a village school that looked like it had been undisturbed since the old Queen’s jubilee. It had two rooms, dip pens, inkwells, a pot-bellied stove and a map where the Empire was still coloured red. There’s one very much like it in Retford Museum.

My penultimate choice is Beating the Bounds – a blog about walking and nature and family and the area around Lancater. I’ve just been reading one of his posts and it’s like entering a different world – lizards, damsel flies, beetles, birds, butterflies limestone pavements, bilberries, Are You Being Served? and the Song of Soloman have all featured recently.

A blog that can weave cheesy seventies comedy and the King James Bible into one story has to be one to watch. Add trips to the Lake District and Silverdale, deer in the garden and digressions into books, science, art and history…

After Lincolnshire we moved to Peterborough, which is where the family stayed. My Dad and sister are still there. There are far too many memories to even start. One of the most significant features is that the place is cluttered with Magpies now, but when we lived there we only saw Magpies when we visited Lancashire. Same with Buzzards. There are Red Kites round Peterborough now often to be seen circling over the A1 and the city tip. We had Lapwings, Yellow Wagtails, nesting Long-tailed Tits in the rough grazing around the house with newts in the back garden. As the area has been developed over the last 50 years these have all disappeared.

Final choice is difficult.

It goes, after a ecrtain amount of heart-searching, to Helen. She’s currently experimenting with bokashi (or fermented Japanese compost if you prefer it in English). She’s a couple of weeks ahead of me, which is good because I can learn from her experiences.

The blog captures the true up and down moments of growing back garden veg, making compost, learning about permaculture, earthworms and volunteering. And much, much more, as they say in the adverts. Her broccoli is currently looking skeletal after a butterfly attack, She’s taking it well, as I try to do, because let’s face it, butterflies need to eat too.

It was touch and go here, and it was hard to exclude The Snail of Happiness. So hard in fact, that she seems to have managed to get in despite my decision. When you grow veg, cook ethically, raise chickens and crochet blankets for refugees it’s always going to be tough to keep her out. So I sneaked her in.

That’s about it for now. All that remains are the bits and pieces.

I can have Shakespeare and an “appropriate cultural or philosophical work”. I don’t want The Bible because I know how it ends, so I’m going to opt for The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy. It’s the story of the Reformation, and though I’ve read and enjoyed The Voices of Morebath I’ve never tried the bigger book. It’s been on my shelves for a while but I haven’t actually opened it. When I have plenty of time to sit and wait I’ll have a good crack at it.

I intend building a tidal fish trap and digging a pit to see what meat drops into it, hopefully a pig. I’m certainly not going to run round chasing things. I’d better learn how to make a salt pan and smoke fish too. By the time I’m rescued I’m intending to be fit, well fed, brainier and, probably, sick of fish.

The book to read for pleasure is the collected version of the Chronicles of Narnia. I could probably make do with the first six, as I’ve often thought The Last Battle is a miserable piece of writing.

Finally, the luxury item.

What else could it be but another blog – I’ll go for the Nottingham Food Blog by Marcus from the Bread Group. We have baked much bread together, and managed to eat most of it, though I never did get the hang of rye bread.

It will be nice to read about the junk food of Nottingham while I’m away. He also writes about his devotion to the fast food of Chicago, so it’s never a boring blog, even though I do wonder what a blood test would reveal. I’d like to see him start testing porridge and salad to make sure he hangs around a bit longer.

And that, is that.

I’m off to look for a desert island now.

Closing music.

Worms, Cookery and Bread

For tea on Wednesday we had chicken, mushroom and bacon pie with tarragon. Yes, we’re in “tea” territory here, and even if we weren’t I spent my early years in Lancashire, so it will be “tea” wherever I go. On the side we had baked potato and sauteed kale. (It’s stir fried really but people always seem to call it sauteed). Of course, those people know how to access the French accents on their keyboard; I don’t and on my screen the word is underlined in red. We had a proper meal because we left work as early as we could and got home in time to do some proper cooking.

That’s what we’ve been missing recently, time.

We did a bit of easy cooking with the group -jam tarts using ready-made pastry and the jam we made on Tuesday from the blackberries we picked on  Monday. It’s known as Any Berry Jam. I would include a link, but I can’t find it. I’ll try later. There was very little washing up and we had very little inclination to stay longer, so we went home, where I cooked again.

Joy.

Tonight, we will be having soup and a sandwich because we tested sausage rolls for the food blog. I am putting weight on in my capacity of pie tester.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quick blackberry jam tarts

It was a very pleasant day, and there were several butterflies on the wing as I drove down the lane. I snapped the two Red Admirals just behind the centre and the very tatty white on the verbena is by the polytunnel.

The marigolds are having one last hurrah, whilst the Cape Gooseberries (or physalis, ground cherries or Inca berries if you prefer) are still struggling to ripen. The ones that were left from the vicious attack last year are a little behind the ones we grew from seed.

The last wheatsheaf loaf broke. This year they all seem to have deformed as they dried out and have actually broken instead of cracking as they normally do. I think it may be because I should let the dough rest more before use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sad fate for Wheatsheaf Loaf

The wormery is going well, though we will probably release them after tomorrow’s session. They have produced tunnels, they have dragged bits of grass down and they have even moved a paper triangle, though not as impressively as in Darwin’s original experiment. In their defence, my worms are smaller. 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wormery, with paper triangle showing

 

 

The worms

The wormery is working. It’s a bit messy (that word again!) but it’s showing what we want it to do. Here are some pictures showing how to layer it up with soil and sand. After that you put worms in and sprinkle some dead leaves and grass on top. Slip the outer case on and let them get on with it.

The final picture shows the vertical worm tracks and if you look closely you can see some of the grass pieces have been carried down into the “earth”.

Darwin was something of a worm expert, and his book  The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations of their Habits is notable for selling better than On the Origin of Species when first published.  I bought a reprint out of curiosity and found it to be more interesting than the title suggests.

One day I must try the paper triangle experiment he suggests.

 

Keyhole Garden (2)

We added the last barrow loads of soil to the bed today and although the central compost basket isn’t quite finished as it should be we’re pretty happy with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Working on the basis of striking while the iron is hot we have started a second bed using recycled materials to form the boundary. This time it’s old tyres, because we have plenty of them (somebody just dumped another four in one of the fields recently.I’m hoping that the black tyres will heat up in spring and give us a slightly earlier start to the year, though we will have to wait until next spring to test the theory out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve also started a trial in one of the raised beds. They were made from conifers felled during the building of the centre and half filled with a mix of rubble and rubbish from a demolished barn. We used general purpose compost from the local garden supplier (bought by the ton so it wasn’t too expensive) but there isn’t a lot of body in the soil in the beds as you may imagine.

Digging holes today it was clear that the top foot of the bed we were working was very dry and though it had roots in it there wasn’t a lot of organic material in it. I spotted three worms, but that isn’t a lot for the soil we shifted.

Hopefully we’ve addressed this lack by sticking in a layer of wood chippings, a layer of paper towels, fruit peel, teabags, toast and eggshells. Mainly paper towels to be honest, but we generate a lot of waste on a school visit and we need to reuse them if at all possible. We followed this up with a layer of pig muck and then replaced the soil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We harvested the leeks this afternoon so next week we’ll repeat the process with the second half of the bed and use the whole bed as a raised bean trench. It’s going to look decorative and hopefully be very productive. If it works we’ll start a proper rotation and do the same to another bed next year.

 

Compost short cut

I used 10 eggs for the Honey and Treacle tart on Saturday. While I was cooking the tarts I dried the egg shells too. That way you can store them and deal with them later without them smelling. I learnt that the hard way one summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After that all you need to do is crush them with a rolling pin and you can throw them in the compost, use them as a barrier to stop slugs or put them in the wormery.

Book Review – Composting Inside and Out

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Composting inside and out – Stephanie Davis

Betterway Home Books 2011 Published at $16.99 but we bought it for £3.99 from a garden centre.

This is a book about composting, rather than a book about the theory and technicalities of composting.

All you need to do is to throw some vegetable waste in a pile. That’s it. no carbon/nitrogen balance, no bin, just a pile of vegetable scraps. It’s simple advice and it’s right – better to have an imperfect compost heap no heap at all.

We currently bury thousands of tonnes of waste. We use lorries to transport it and we allow it to rot and produce greenhouse gases. It’s not efficient. It’s not good for the planet. And it’s a waste of a useful resource. Far better to keep it at home and use it to improve our garden soil. No garden? Use it in containers, or even give it away to someone who can use it.

As you would expect from someone who calls herself the Urban Worm Girl there’s quite a lot on worms. There is also plenty of information on other composting systems. Much of it is American, and for once that’s an advantage. Living in a country with some very cold parts (cold enough to freeze compost) she has a lot of information about keeping worms indoors. Yes, indoors. I always thought it made sense to keep them warm in the winter.

It’s 188 pages with pictures and plenty of space so it’s not a difficult read and it’s well worth it for the information.

Now all I need to do is have a word with my wife about bringing the worms in…