Chicken shit..

In the aftermath of tree-mageddon, I went out this morning to make some progress on winter prep and to get some stuff in t’ground. This is the new view from the vegetable patch towards the house. You’ll notice that where there was once a whopping great big tree there is now a stump and a big pile of future firewood. It’s a lot clearer. We loved Oakie and agonised for a long time over the it, but overall I think we’ve made the right decision.

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It’s fair to say the neighbours are quite pleased and I’m not surprised – they’ve gone from having a line of 50 foot trees to having full exposure. Aren’t we good to them! So – below is the pano for the post-work vegetable area. As usual the progress isn’t necessarily obvious… Working left to right, I re-planted a couple of the raspberry posts and tied the raspberry canes back a bit. I picked a decent bowlful of raspberries (still – at this time of year!) and mulched around the bases of them. In re-planting the stake at the far end, I must have dug up about 5 tiles-worth of broken tiles. Definitely a fork job! I put some more mulch around the lilac trees at the back – the lower branches of these need some trimming I think – that’s a job for next week. (click to get the full panoramic effect, as usual.)

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I dug some compost into the bed-formerly-known-as-the-strawberry-patch and had to pile some of the earth up against the remaining strawberries as it’s getting quite full and would have been pretty humpy. I might have to re-distribute some to somewhere. It’s good quality – not too weedy & plenty of worms. This weeks evening task is to research setting up a wormery so I might be able to use some for that. We were given a wormery as a wedding gift (from Steve’s Essex Uni chums I think) but the worms died in transit to it never really got going. We still have the barrel with the tap at the bottom so I think we can work some free-fertiliser magic with that… I’ve now planted 4 rows of onions – 2 rows of white & 2 rows of red. The red ones are called “Red Winter” so if they fail because they’ve been planted at the wrong time of year I’ll be wanting my money back! Let’s see what happens, eh?! There were some sets which have started to sprout already which, I understand from the RHS site, makes them more likely to flower and thus make rubbish eating onions. My plan is to plant these & let them go to seed and then I’ll have some onion seeds to start a new crop with. Yes, it’s a long game, but at £1.99 for 20 sets, if I can get them for free I’m going to consider it a bonus :-)

There were some accidental potatoes growing next to the rhubarb, so I lifted & split them up to hopefully increase yield a little. Some bit the dust in the meantime but I don’t think we’re going to be short. I very nearly inadvertently planted some with the onions which came from the compost, so I have some teeny tiny potatoes which might seed at some point. I also have a plan to build up the soil along their little row to try to increase yield yet again – so maybe this is a good destination for the excess soil from the other bed.

My friend Ken who, among MANY other things keeps chickens brought us some chicken manure last weekend, so my final job was to dig some of this into what I’m going to refer to as the spring planting bed. Apparently this stuff is so strong that you need to leave at least a month after spreading for the chemicals to bed in, or water lots daily. My plan is to clear the second half of this bed and dig it in there – and then not plant anything until the spring. And, as it apparently gets very smelly when damp, my plan is to stay well away from it when it’s raining… It was all a really good workout, and I really enjoyed just pottering.

I’m thinking that we may need to come up with some names for the various veggie patches so I’ll apply my brain to thinking of something appropriately themed… But while we only have 2 beds it’s not really urgent!

My plan for next week includes lifting & dividing the rhubarb, planting some over-winter broad beans (omnomnom!) and further clearing of the spring planting bed. You heard it here first, folks!

This evening will be some crochet and a project involving this:

…for a family who use re-useable plastic bags we sure do have a lot at the moment…

slightly deflated

Today we achieved an ambition that I’ve been working up to for at least 4 years – we did the tour at the electric mountain in Llanberis, the Hydro Electric Power Station.

Last time we tried to go along, Joel was only 3 and for this reason we were refused admittance. On the grounds that it’s a power station, which was presented to us as though 3 wasn’t just an arbitrary number they had chosen as the threshold. Or possibly their insurers.

Anyway, he was wearing sandals, so wouldn’t have been able to go in anyway.

Anyway, one letter of complaint and 4 years later, we tried again. This time we called ahead to reserve tickets, but as it happens we needn’t have bothered – it seems the 1630 bus isn’t that popular. Who knew??!?

The young lady on the front desk could do with some training in interpersonal skills as she completely failed to make eye contact through her interaction with Steve where she told him you aren’t allowed to take phones or bags or really anything on the tour, but there are lockers for which you need a pound coin. We made sure we had a pound coin by buying 2 cups of tea and 2 peaches before embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

The tour starts with a short video explaining the background to the power station. It’s main use is to supply instant additional power at times of national needs, i.e. during key episodes of EastEnders. They have 6 turbines which are switched on depending on demand – all six were apparently in use just after Phil Mitchell was shot and immediately after the last solar eclipse, when we apparently all watched it, then headed indoors and put the kettle on.

So, it’s not always working at full capacity. The water throughput and amount of power that can be generated are huge. All 6 turbines going at once can power Wales, but only for 5 hours because then the water runs out.

And this is where my slight deflation comes from.

Putting aside the fact that no cameras means we didn’t get pictures of us wearing the fetching hair nets they supplied for under the hard hats, this is definitely not a green source of energy. The water is dropped from one lake to another to generate the electricity, and is then pumped back up the hill overnight to start again the next day.

It takes 1.5 times the energy generated to pump the water back up through the system over night. It takes 6 hours.

It only works economically because they use “economy 7′ electricity which they pay 1/5th as much for as the electricity they generate during the day and charge for. Which comes from coal or nuclear or other non-renewable sources.

The overheads and up front costs were measured in millions on 1980′s money. They made that back in a handful of years.

Yes, the energy supplied is a much-needed top-up to stop bits of the network from having to be shut down at peak times, but it’s basically a money-making factory. The turbines which weren’t being used were spinning in preparation for being able to be turned on – which presumably uses energy itself. Those spinning turbines are making *more* *money* than the ones which are generating power because of the “readiness” charge the company levies to do that. You’ve got to admire the chutzpah, but as an eco-activist, I’m really quite disappointed.

So, its main selling point is quick, instant additional energy. It’s a happy side issue that this energy source doesn’t directly involve putting another coal on the fire.

Also, Steve was the only one of us who I think was actually fully engaged. To the rest of us, it was big noisy machine rooms and an interpretive video would have done the trick. Especially since they banged on about the big hole they dug, but you can’t actually see very much of it.

So: find out what you can about it on the web and save yourselves the pennies and the indignity of the hairnets. I shan’t be going again, if only because I don’t want to encourage the culture of utter indifference displayed by the desk clerk.

holiday, schmoliday

I’ve spent the afternoon turning something that looks like this…

weedy path

…into this…

less weedy path

The hyper-critical among you will no doubt spot that I didn’t go for zero-tolerance throughout. This was because I was getting to the point where there were lots of large deep holes appearing, the filling of which felt like it was beyond the skills of someone whose only experience in the construction industry was as an office clerk and weigh bridge attendant. Especially since my Dad, who has actual experience in this field, is no longer up for hard labour.

Unfortunately, from the first picture, you can kinda see the extent of the task which remains. The rest of the yard looks a lot like this.

weedy yard

All of which leads me to wonder if, as the only responsible adult in the house, would it be really bad of me to crack one of these open as a treat?

very hard elderflower champagne bottles

You never know, it might make standing up straight a possibility again!

shattered

I’m shattered.

I still haven’t recovered from the sore shoulder I gave myself last week when ten pin bowling, meaning I now have, hopefully temporarily, two manky shoulders making my usual sleeping position very uncomfortable. It’s possible I haven’t slept well all week.

So, today although I initially had help, I’ve basically single-handedly turned this:slightly dealt-with veggie patch

…into this:

freshly dug veggie patch

(Please note the carefully fenced off salvaged garlic in the nearside corner.)

And this:

veggie jungle

…into this:

less jungle

I’ve uncovered the blueberry bushes and at least 2 of them aren’t dead. I think they could use a new location, though.

I also had a culinary triumph in country beef with herb bread, made in the slow cooker. Even if I say so myself… ;-)

look mum! I managed to not kill plants! In the garden!

In a new feature I celebrate keeping plants alive in my garden, skilfully glossing over those that didn’t make it….

dahlia

Dahlia – one of mum’s favourites. I thought this was a gone-er after last winter, but it seems not.

unknown

Another lovely looking purple flower. See, it’s alive.

pansies

I’ve always loved pansies, but prefer the purple ones. I never realised they were so small, though.

And all of them, very much alive!

today in the garden…

I turned this:

raspberries - before

into this:

raspberries-after

…and this:

big pile of old raspberry canes

and my arms bear the scars… Roll on next season. Plus, we are getting to eat our own carrots this year as they are still there (hurrah) and very tasty, the courgettes are coming on nicely, and the black dwarf beans are producing like crazy.

On another note, it seems that had she not had access to magical roses, the wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty could have done worse than use wild strawberries. They are all-encompassing nutters who are trying to take over my veggie patch. But then, any gardener who knows anything knows that already…

quickie

While I’m composing a more erudite post about This Week In Munich (und umgebung) here are today’s thoughts.

Lily’s new dog, Lucy, is a bit disconcerting.

It turns out that this…

lucy-the-dog

…looks a lot like this…

bruiser-the-cat

Several times today I went to shoo her off the table, only to become aware that it was the dog, not the cat.

Plus, in other news, I picked these from the garden.

fab-hydrangeas

They are beautiful, but round the corner where no-one can see them. It’s tempting just to pick them all and fill the house, but I might stick with just going round the corner more frequently while they’re in flower ;-)

roses are red, violets are blue (or rather, purple and yellow)

Given that roses have a reputation for needing a lot of TLC…

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…and that I do bugger all with mine…

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…we really don’t seem to be doing too badly.

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Oh, and here are the violets. Or Pansies.

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and more roses.

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Speaking of low-effort crops, I have *never* planted potatoes, and yet my compost heap looks like this.

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(these are potatoes)(growing)

Imagine my surprise when I saw these cherries on our little tree. It clearly likes the climate round the side of the house.

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And finally, I think it’s time to brew up! (now I know what I’m doing on Sunday…)

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weedy veggies

The veggie patch has gone “a bit organic”. I was away for a couple of days during which it rained quite a lot. Whereas previously I was largely on top of the weeding, albeit in a fairly non-no-tolerance manner, when I checked on my return, this had happened…

weedy veggies

There is still discernable lettuce action and the rocket to the left is looking quite bushy. The courgettes haven’t been coddled or nurtured at all – they have often been seen gasping for water of an evening as this bed is quite dry, but they are growing some zucchini nonetheless. I intended to get out there and blitz it this weekend, but ran out of time. Maybe during the week…

it’s a tomater disaster!

Seeds update.

The tomatoes have gone all pear-shaped. Thinning them out is no longer an issue. This makes me really really very sad. Mainly because Joel eats tomatoes like there’s no tomorrow.

In other, more uplifting news, we now have at least 5 live chilli plants:

And the observant among you will have spotted that I mixed up my courgettes and my broad beans. I’m actually quite pleased about this because 3 courgette plants is probably enough and 3 broad bean plants isn’t enough – 5 is probably *just about* enough…

We may just scrape in with a “you tried hard” sticker, it seems…