The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We Are Not A Garden Centre...

Part of my daily routine is to check the weather forecast on the BBC website. I don't know why. It is rarely correct and even the 24-hour forecast disagrees with the daily summary, which always seems to take the most pessimistic view possible. It has certainly been a lot hotter than they predicted.

So on Sunday afternoon I had the roof down on the car on the way to Jean's for our postponed trip to the fuchsia nursery. A friend of Jean's had told her she had been disappointed on her visit but we weren't. There was a small tea shop, some tables out the front with fuchsias and a few other plants and in the back a much larger selection of, surprise surprise, fuchsias. The proprietor was quite helpful - Jean is not backward in coming forward and had collared him. We both bought one and then continued on to Edrom nursery.

Edrom nursery used to be in Edrom but is now located on the road out of Coldingham to Coldingham moor. I had my first (of usually half a dozen) cars stopping on Saturday when I was gardening to ask me where it was...

We were like kids in a sweet shop. I stopped myself going too mad as I do not intend to plant up LB7 until next year. I am guessing that many of the problems in the long bank are due to it being planted before the nettles/ground elder were eradicated.

We had both been adding plants to our baskets and were 'just going to have a quick walk around the greenhouse on the other side of the road' when an elderly lady came out the gate and crossed the road towards us. It was not open to the public - so is presumably where they propagate the plants. Just as well as we already had more than we had planned. I ended up buying three different varieties of pulmonaria (the ones I brought up with me seem to absolutely thrive here), an allium (hopefully actually about five in the pot - I will find out at some point) and another dwarf rhododendron. Jean bought a lot more. I will certainly be back next year - for plant lovers it as an absolute dream of a nursery.

We followed her in to the wooden hut to pay. I noticed the gold medal from this year's Gardener's World Live. We got chatting and she has given us both one of the mail order catalogues, where I see they won Best in Show at Harrogate last year. Whilst we were paying a car pulled in with some tourists who asked if it was a garden centre as they wanted to buy a heather. You could hear the disdain in the voice when she replied that 'No it was not' and that the garden centre at East Ord would sell that kind of thing.

I spent yesterday going back over the section of LB7 that I had 'cleared'. The dogs were very well behaved in my absence despite me being late for all their appointments.

So I have now lined the edge with large cobble stones gleaned from the building site, dug over the area with a fork, removing a lot more nettle roots, and started putting in stepping stones at strategic places. (Jean had mentioned some fancy foot-shaped ones at the Kelso show but one thing I do not need to spend money on here is stones). The slate I have been digging out is being pushed back in to make small planting areas and will hopefully keep the bank fairly stable.

I have various splinters in my fingers but only a couple are sore when I knock them, and I seem to have insect bites of varying degrees of itchiness in a variety of places :(

Monday, July 28, 2008

Words of Interest - CHARIDEE

This little gem appears to have been gained in the switch from Chambers to Collins. I should not really have needed to check...

CHARIDEE: charity as pronounced in a mid-Atlantic accent

It is the start of a very slippery slope if we start getting words that are just based on how they are pronounced in certain cases. However, I must admit that I can hear this one ringing loud and clear in my head, and I am cringing as I think of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Long Bank 7 - Work In Progress

MIL phoned yesterday for a chat and to see how I was coping without Number One Son. She asked if I had been out gardening. Nope - It's Too Hot - and humid and the flies are driving us mad. But I felt guilty about my lack of toil and decided to do half an hour or so after lunch.

I started at LB6. I got the bigger weeds out and the cosmetic job of picking the visible ground elder out. Then I started clearing the dead leaves from the red hot pokers. Then I could get to some of the nettles and rosebay willlow herb. I really needed to attack it from both sides...

So I started to clear the 'virgin' new bank (will be LB7) that was the weed patch in front of the ex-cowshed. I had sprayed this area several times in May with Round-Up and it had done its job. Enthusiasm for this new task temporarily overtook common sense and before I knew it it was time to take the dogs out.

I was going to stop for the day but it is like an addiction...

I took stock and collected a load more rubbish sacks. The whole area is about ten metres long and varies in width from about three metres down to one at the far end. I decided to start in earnest at the far end - as I measure progress in how many paces have been cleared this is a quicker win scenario. First clear the surface debris - the desiccated weeds and moss, that Round-Up obviously doesn't kill. Then clear the stones, rubble and bits of slate embedded in the bank. Next clear the new weeds that were hiding underneath the old dead ones. Lastly dig out the nettle and cow-parsley roots where found. I stopped around 6 p.m. - hot and 'glowing' as the saying goes.

It is not as humid today and the flies appear to have taken a short break. I have done another hour or so this morning. Five rubbish sacks filled so far...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jamie Oliver - Plagiarist?

I decided to Google for easier strawberry sorbet recipes. One that doesn't involve whipping up egg whites and gelatine.

So I had read through half a dozen when I got Jamie Oliver's blog. This sounds familiar I thought. I double checked. Word for word the same as the first one I read on the Joy of Baking website...

Extension Part 10

I plucked up the courage to phone Alan yesterday. He told me he would be around today to tidy up ready for a digger arriving on Monday to start on the foundations on the sun room.

He was true to his word. The outline of the sun-room has been re-established and the building materials that were sitting on it have been cleared out of the way.

I have now asked him approximately how long does he think it will take to get it all done. He has said a couple of months. Foundations will be dug on Monday. Steel frame should arrive on Wednesday. Then timber frame should go in and work should be pretty much continuous from then on. The reason for all the delays (no-one had been here for a month) has been the weather and this is the main holiday period. There has only been him and one other working for the last couple of months, trying to keep everyone (or no-one) happy.

I asked if Paul had mentioned the changes we want for the patio and walls. Not specifically but he gave me a brochure to look at to choose materials for the walls and paving. Anyway, I have spent the last hour or so on the website for the brochure noting down the prices of the different materials that I like...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Camera On-Line

It was time to load some software after the raspberry jam was made. But which?

I got the disk out of the box and the booklet that came with it. Four applications to choose from. I couldn't decide. In the end I downloaded two of them just to get an idea of their look and feel. PhotoFunViewer will do almost everything I need. ArcSoft for when I start getting adventurous - the Panorama Maker could be fun. On first glance PFV looks easiest to use - at least it has a fairly comprehensive help function.

I was a little concerned when I first tried to download my test photographs using PFV - it was quite slow compared to my old software. I reread the help for both the camera and software - all was as should be and I tried again. Bingo!

I think the problem on first use was that it was trying to display all the folders I currently had in my Pictures directory - and there are a lot. Now I have successfully downloaded for the first time it has created a PFStudio folder, and now just loads that folder up on startup...

Not perfect photo of poppy in the high bank but my favourite of the test photographs (using zoom and auto Intelligence/macro) - the wind was blowing it around a lot so top not quite in shot. More practice needed...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And the Latest Flavour Is...

So, after picking 9 lbs of gooseberries yesterday it was jam making day today. But not gooseberry...

The dog walk this morning took me past the wild raspberry stands I have been keeping an eye on, and after two days of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows there now appeared to be enough ripened to make it worth a trip to pick them. I was not wrong. I filled two punnets from just the first stand despite eating quite of few of the squishier ones. I think wild raspberries are the best tasting fruit in the world. I decided to leave the other patch for the birds, at least until the next time I think it may be worth the effort - which may be sooner than I expected.

Two pounds when I weighed my booty. Into the jam pan this afternoon, gooseberries ousted.

Words cannot express how good it tastes... definitely the best one yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My New Toy

My camera turned up early - yesterday afternoon. Luckily I was in.

Fought my way in to the rather large UPS box to retrieve much smaller camera box.

Checked all the bits it said I should have were there.

Attached camera strap.

Attached lens cap.

Set battery charging - 2 hours to fully charge.

Downloaded PDF user guide. Started reading. Decided there was no way I was going to work my way through the 173 pages, so just looked at the basics to get started.

Loaded charged battery and memory card.

Switched it on.

Set clock and time.

Took a photo of Jen to check date/time working.

Switched it off.

Made some more strawberry jam...

Took it over to Jean's this morning after she invited me over for coffee to try out the 'scenery' mode on the views from her back garden across the rolling Berwickshire countryside. Also tested out the macro function on her roses and clematises - really pleased with this.

After picking my gooseberries (a mega nine pounds this year) spent the rest of the afternoon skimming the manual and trying to work out what all the buttons and menu options are. Gave up again. I think I need to be more organised - determine the things I will want to do and get confident with those before blowing my mind with all the stuff it can do but I will probably never use.

Still need to download the software so no photos on the blog yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Talking of manana, still no sign of the builders...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cows Found and Other Things

The cows have been found. They had made it all the way to a field in West Blanerne.

Redcurrant jelly has been made. It was almost a disaster. I was not convinced after pouring the first couple of ladlefuls that it had actually reached the setting point - normally the last few drops of the ladle go all gloopy but this didn't appear to be the case. I decided to pour it back into the pan and boil it up for another couple of minutes. The plan went awry when I dropped the jar into the pan. Panic. Took it off the heat, and with a spoon uprighted the jar so I could then pull it out with the aid of a tea towel. Anyway, I eventually ended up with about five pounds. Still not convinced yet that it will set, but signs are hopeful as the dregs in the jam pan have. Everything has been washed up ready for another batch of strawberries this evening as this is proving popular not only at home but with Margaret. Anne and Janet have also both been given a jar.

Sheila (solicitor) from up the road has photocopied and certified that I am who my driving licence says I am. Hopefully I can now open my savings account.

Camera is on its way. I can track the UPS shipment. It started in Los Angeles. Then went to Long Beach CA, Louiseville KY, Philadelphia PA, East Midlands Airport for the weekend, and arrived in Edinburgh this morning. Should make the one hour journey to here sometime tomorrow.

But still no sign of the builders...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Runaway Cows

It was the Edrom route for the dog walk today. As we headed off on the short-cut across our building site I noticed a big cowpat a pace in from the edge of the lawn. This may explain me being woken up at around 3 a.m. by the dogs barking...

Another one just before the road.

And two more on the road/verge on the other side.

No more were spotted on the walk.

The full quota of cows (three) were still happily munching away in Margaret's closest field.

When we got back and the dogs were fed and watered I wandered around to Margaret's with two punnets to pick some of her redcurrants. She was not in. Aha - probably out looking for cows again. She seems to have been very unlucky this year with escapees. So I just got down to the picking.

A while later Ian drove up with Margaret in the car. Shortly afterwards Ian went back past in his car, followed by Margaret in hers. About ten minutes later they were both back and I could hear them by the gate to the track to the river.

I had filled both the punnets by now so went to find out what was happening. My powers of detection had been right. I told them I had seen no evidence of them on the road to Edrom. Luckily I could also see no evidence of them on our lawn...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Alone Again...

I drove Paul to the railway station yesterday afternoon. There is some dispute as to how long he is away. We are not in disagreement on the date of his return, just whether twelve days and a few hours is 'just over a week' (Paul) or nearly two weeks (me).

So I am now settling in to life with the dogs.

Paul always accuses me of picking the evenings it is raining to have a bath and miss the late night outing. Well, there was no avoiding it last night... come 11 p.m. and I could hear the rain pelting down outside. I got their coats and mine on. As expected Jen didn't care but I had to drag Poncho out the door. He was digging his paws in all the way to the road, then shuffling along in a state of misery refusing to do anything. We returned, drenched and unsuccessful.

At least the sound of the rain drowned out the noise of the bats in the eaves - at least I hope it is bats. They seem to be getting noisier and noisier, with their chittering. I may find them entrancing flying around outside but they are becoming a pain in the **** when I am trying to get to sleep. I am now imagining them as I lie awake in the dark flying around inside the loft, thousands of them. And then breaking out into our en-suite like something from a Stephen King novel...

I still have not got my new camera, although the extra memory for it (from somewhere else) arrived after a couple of days. I sent an email off on Wednesday to find out what was happening. I got a reply in the evening saying they had none currently in stock but were expecting a delivery in the coming week. I got another email last night telling me "Your order has been reviewed and processed and the warehouse is preparing the shipment". So, what would have happened if I'd paid for the express delivery? Or does this mean that someone else did and has got MY camera???

I got a letter today from new building society that I am trying to give some of my money to, telling me the proof of identity I sent was not adequate. So I wasted several hours today
(a) trying to find a suitable document from the Inland Revenue (P2 that was sent was not acceptable) or DVLC to avoid the need for a certified copy of my passport or driving license. I found a VLA from 2006 but apparently they will only accept the latest one.
(b) Failing (a) I then failed to get our Lexmark printer/scanner/photocopier to photocopy. I tracked down via Google that the laptop needed to be plugged in even to just photocopy but it made absolutely no difference.
It's all very well in these times of banks in trouble/credit crunch in trying to spread your assets around but it is not that easy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Extension Part 9a

Well, it has been three and a half weeks since my last post on the extension.
Paul phoned the builder when he got back from Pau and was told he would be around on the following Tuesday.
The Tuesday came and went.
We got an email at the start of this week saying he would be here yesterday.
Still no-one has come.
The weeds are taking over again and the painted outline of the sun room is being washed away...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Having looked at the weather forecast I got out in the garden yesterday - it had predicted a deterioration as the week went on and with Paul off again on Thursday I needed to get some jobs done.

Job 1: Tie the tall perennials in the trellis bed back to the trellis as the wind had caused havoc over the last week. It does look a lot tidier now, although the chrysanthemums, which must be over four feet tall look a little strange, all hugging together and pointing the wrong way but hopefully they will sort themselves out.

Job 2: Cut back the lupins. Some had been attacked by the dreaded lupin bugs earlier, and although I had got the first wave under control they returned a couple of weeks later and in a few days had caused a lot of damage. Mysteriously they have all disappeared now.

Job 3: Start the weeding/cutting back of aquilegias on the long bank - got most of the rockery and LB2 done.

It was very hot and the flies were out again. A lot of cursing and waving of arms...

When I cleared back the vetch I found even more wild strawberries - most of the bottom of LB2 and still spreading. I went back out in the early evening and picked another pound. I made another batch of jam in the evening. It was almost disaster last week when Morrisons had sold out of jam sugar, but I found one unopened bag and a half-used bag tucked away at the back of a cupboard. I will need more though - the gooseberries feel as if they will be ready quite soon now.

I went back out in the garden after lunch today. It was a lot cooler and the wind was up so no flies - hurrah!

I had seen on Gardener's World that now is the time to collect and sow primrose seed. However, in my garden there was no need to go to all that trouble - I had spotted a small patch of self-sown seedlings. I dug out the clump, separated them and have replanted them - must have got a couple of dozen of varying sizes.

Whilst I was doing this Paul wandered past with the dogs. The next thing I know I hear a loud crack and see one of the overhead electricity cables is bouncing. I downed tools and headed towards the hill. A tractor was coming down it, Paul and dogs standing to one side and a tree was half-way across the road. The tractor and a following car drove around it and on towards the bridge.

I assumed the tractor must have hit it, but no - it had just cracked and fallen of its own accord just before the tractor reached it.

Paul phoned Margaret - we weren't sure who owned the land/tree but Margaret seemed the likely candidate and if not would know who did. She popped straight down with Clive, who luckily just happened to be there.

Clive went to get a tractor.

I went back to my primroses.

None of this road closed for x hours rubbish that you get in suburbia.

Have tractor, will travel...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

BEST Group Final - Scotland

I played the BEST group final (Scotland) against Neil Scott at his parents house yesterday.

I set off at 8.30 am and found that my sat-nav was sulking - it was refusing to talk to me. I stopped a couple of times to try to sort it out but to no avail. Luckily the screen was behaving so I only missed the turn into the road at the end and soon discovered my mistake. I was just checking the house number before I knocked on a total strangers door when suddenly it started telling me to 'TURN LEFT'. As I was parked right outside the correct house I switched it off...

For once I won the draw a tile to see who starts. And that appeared to be a big mistake...
I asked Neil if he wanted 5-point penalties. He declined :)

Game 1: 0-1
329 (12) DROPLeT (70)
406 (12) sWAMPED (86), Q(A)DI (72)
My big 'mistake' in this game was a neatly slotted play of EVEJAR for 43 to take a small lead. The only danger was QADI, but with only one I and D left unseen I took the chance...

Game 2: 0-2
402 (11) LI(B)ELING (72), CORDIAl (71)
476 (12) (D)ENUDING (89), TETANIES (62)
I missed CARDIOi(D) which would have taken Neil's spot for (D)ENUDING. At the end I needed to try a bonus to win with AILPRST, I opted for PLAISTR(Y)*. There was nothing.

Game 3: 0-3
394 (13) M(U)NIFIEs (74)
452 (12) OXO (53), POURIEs (75), GREASIE(R) (60)
I had to change on my starting move - no vowels...

We stopped for lunch. Neil couldn't believe he was 3-0 up. My head was spinning.

Game 4: 0-4
390 (11) TATtOOE(R)
400 (12) VIOLERS (73), ARCSINE (82)
Neil changed on his opening move. I thought at last I was going to get on the score sheet here, but Neil made a second opening leaving one in the bag. With ACEIINRS left unseen I could see the writing on the wall.

As Neil said his winning spread was coming down...

Game 5: 1-4
471 (12) BALOnEY (78), ELUTION (65), (M)ISRULED (86)
344 (12) bARRELS (69)
Neil had just blown an S. I could see no other bonus than BALOnEY (there is none), stopping one short of the triple column. Luckily he could just take the triple with YANGS. With DEILRSU I could see nothing when Neil gave me the M. Neil's rack after that move was DEILRSU!

Game 6: 2-4
403 (11) UREMiAs (94), (R)ETAINED (72)
398 (11) WHINGER (82), ZOOTY (51)
I had ALOXR?? on my opening rack but decided to not play the bonus I saw - eXORd(I)AL - as it would allow an easy 40+ response from Neil. I missed the 4x pROX(I)mAL which I should have played. It worked out as Neil's WHINGER set up UREMiAs on the triple. Things were not looking goo approaching the endgame. I was 17 behind after a neat UNDAMS for 46 from Neil. I was holding an unplayable CURLIES with two in the bag (AEGIOQSTV). I decided to gamble on a two move playout, playing CURSI at M1 across. I picked AE from the bag...

Game 7: 3-4
442 (13) GARNeTS (68), cR(A)MPING (74)
381 (12) S(C)HEMATA (66), REX (57), (R)ENAILED (72)
This game was a lot closer than the score suggests. Neil tried ROAD(R)ACE on his second move, but after that pegged back a 120 point deficit. RENAILED gave him a 14 point lead s he picked TIGER as the last 5 tiles from the bag. Luckily for me there was nowhere to play it and he tried GREIT...

Game 8: 4-4
439 (12) DI(L)UTIOn (82), (S)UBORNER (70), (G)AIEtIES (74)
304 (12)
Lucky here that Neil gave me the L for DI(L)UTIOn when I had been trying to decide what to dump. After (S)UBORNER I picked EEIIIS? and changed EII. Had not been too impressed with my replacement tiles of AIE - AIErIES did not play and then I noticed the G.

I was feeling a lot calmer now. Neil was going the other way...

Game 9: 5-4
434 (14) SIZEL (54), fOETIDE(ST) (70)
390 (13) TO(E)NAILS (62), GOLD(E)NER (62)
This game started slowly, both of us overloaded with vowels. I was pleased with my spot of fOETIDE(ST) on a blocked board.

A break for tea.

Game 10: 6-4
436 (12) SHALIER (95), JEON (58), BAPtISE (81)
370 (12) ELuTORS (82)
SHALIER on move 5 followed immediately by JEON gave me a 100 point cushion but I was not counting my chickens. BAPtISE on move 8 from H13 down - he needed to hook it straight away as I was ready with CREW. He did with ELuTORS, but I was so relieved to see the last unseen S and blank go together (I had the remaining S on my rack), and only three unseen vowels left in the bag.

I think we were both nervous wrecks throughout the day. It was tough on Neil to lose the way he did. I think we would have both been happier with a more nip-and-tuck match in terms of the sequence of the game results.

The draw for the quarter-finals takes place at the start of August. I am hoping to get one of the North of England region winners...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just For Henry

I tried it today - it tastes fine.
Another 3/4 pound picked today. I need some more recipe ideas...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wild Strawberry Sorbet

I picked another pound of my wild strawberries yesterday and decided to have a go at making sorbet. I had a recipe in my Marguerite Patten cookery book.

A quick trip into Duns this morning as it said I needed gelatine, which I found at the Co-op. I also nipped into Youngmans and came out loaded with two Mason Cash pie dishes (30 oz and 60 oz) - getting ready for the gooseberry harvest, an egg poacher (one that you hang over the side of your saucepan) and some pastry cutters. I had been looking on the web for these items but had been totally unsuccessful finding one site that sold them all, and therefore the postage would make them far too expensive.

After lunch I started on the sorbet.

Stew the strawberries slowly in half a pint of water.
Press through a sieve - this took longer than anticipated so the puree was not very hot when I finished so I heated it up again...
Add 3 oz sugar and one teaspoon of gelatine to hot puree (see above) and stir until dissolved.
Transfer to container and place in freezer.

Stiffly beat two or three egg whites.
I discovered I was not very good at separating the yolks, so three eggs resulted in two egg whites and an omelette mix for tea tonight, but they were large eggs and all I had. Paul then informed me we have an egg separator gadget somewhere... Much beating of eggs took place, Paul and I taking turns as we were just using a hand whisk (hint: one of those electric whisk/blitzer gadgets might be useful). Eventually they formed quite a satisfying voluminous white frothy texture - not quite up to meringue standard but not bad.

When the puree mixture begins to stiffen (this took quite a long time and I may still have been premature) fold into the egg whites and return to the freezer.

Well, time will tell if it works, but it does look a very pretty pink colour and has cost virtually nothing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FreeCycle Strikes Again

Hi Everone, my mum who is 78 has been complaining that she can't see
the faces of people on her tv - think it's about 20". As she's a
Pensioner I thought I'd ask if anyone has one they'd like to donate.
Perhaps you've upgraded to a massive flat screen recently? I think
ideally she'd like a 30" or so. My daughter lives in Kelso so she
could collect it for me if it's nearer to her. Thanks in advance.


I suggest a pair of spectacles...

This person also asked for a computer for his daughter so he didn't have to lend her his laptop...

Also earlier this week we had one starting on about learning the piano. They can't be, I thought and no they weren't. There followed a request for sheet music.

But this obviously got someone to thinking. The next day there was indeed a request for a piano - don't think it was the same person.

I am now determining what I should ask for...

Panasonic DMC-FZ18somethingorother

When I got my new laptop I discovered that Vista did not really support my camera software. I managed to sort of reinstal it and it sort of works when it feels like it. I need to 'run as administrator' and say 'yes' I really do want to run it! Then I get a load of error messages which I have to close down. Then sometimes it recognises that I have attached my camera and sometimes it doesn't. In the latter cases I have to shut down my laptop and start again. The latest pain is that when I get as far as 'photos on camera' window it doesn't actually show me the photos. I have to minimise and then reselect the window and the photos are displayed. It then doesn't highlight the ones I select to dowload unless I repeat the minimise/maximise routine...

The camera itself is fine. I bought it from work at about a third of the RRP in a staff sale and at the time it was top of the range - Canon PowerShot S30, 3.1 megapixels and 10x zoom. Now it is so last century. The time has come to upgrade. Watch out for it on FreeCycle in the near future - should be fine with older PCs/laptops...

So I spent last night surfing the net. I quickly decided on a panasonic. I got snared with an 18x optical zoom with 8.1 megapixels. Then I started looking at all the different sites promising me the best prices available anywhere. Then I got very confused.

Panasonic DMC-FZ18 black, silver, DMC-FZ18S, DMC-FM18K, DMC-FX18EBK... All at slightly different prices, with very similar but not quite the same descriptions. I noted a few of the sites and gave up for the night.

I dropped the bombshell on Paul when he got back from the bridge club. I didn't think it was a bombshell - I have been saying for ages that I want a new camera. He never picks up on hints for birthdays/Christmas either. He says I never tell him or drop hints!!!

So I resumed my investigation today. I decided to look on panasonic's own website. But it was down, being updated. Eventually it came back up. I think all those variations on the name actually boil down to one camera in a choice of silver or black.

Armed with this I went back to investigating prices. It was stunning the differences in price - Tesco Direct being the most expensive I found at a shocking £349.97 down to £194.00 at Bestpricedbrands including P&P. I placed an order. It should arrive next week...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Action-Packed Day at Todheugh

Another first of country living for us today. Scottish Water came this morning to empty the sewerage tank. It is located under our rose bed, and seemed fairly straight forward. Apparently the only real problem was a request for next time to do it after we have pruned the roses.

Partly because of the sewerage tank being emptied and partly because I overslept we reverted back to a later dog walk. I had got them ready and we went out to wait for the SW man to finish. As we were waiting a Scottish Local lorry came by - road sweeping the edge yet again. Then another smaller SB van passed by.

As we set out for the walk we could see the van parked down the track by the bridge. The lorry was coming back. We waited. It stopped. We carried on. The van went across the bridge, reversed off the road and stopped. At this point Jen dived into undergrowth, and despite having her muzzle on emerged with yet another mole. She gave it a good shaking and then dropped it. I managed to pull her away, and it made a shaky exit to the verge on the other side of the road. We continued on our walk.

When we came back there was a temporary road sign on the far side of the bridge with a 20 mph limit and 'beware of skidding', shortly followed by a 'mobile roadworks' sign. Another 'beware of skidding' one on the other side. Jen had obviously remembered the mole and suddenly pulled towards where it had last been seen. I stopped her and could not see it so it may well have survived its ordeal.

We then went food shopping - one of life's necessities but it is so much more civilised being able to avoid the weekend. When we got home there was a council worker at the bottom of the hill trying to stop us taking the road towards Edrom. As we only needed to go about 20 yards he apologised and let us through.

They appear to be doing something to the road in front of the long bank...I'm off to look.
wibblywobbly lines as time passes
It was like something out of Thunderbirds...Mobile roadworks was a perfect description. They have completely relayed the road surface from as far as I can see up past Margaret's and the last I saw they were heading towards the bridge.

Lorry at the front laying tar.

Lorry behind with conveyor-belt putting gravel on top of the tar.

Lorry behind loading gravel into conveyor-belt lorry.

Vehicle (no idea what it is called - a non-steam steam-roller) behind just driving up and down bedding down the new road surface.

And this is on top (literally) of all the road repairs they did at the end of May...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bats at Todheugh

The bats are back. The first summer we were here we noticed them at this time of year. Last year less so because of the weather washout.

For the last few weeks when the weather has been warm/dry we have been bat-watching on our late night outings with the dogs. I have no idea what kind they are but they seem a reasonable size - it is hard to tell when all you really see is a black shape darting around. Saying that, I would still have no idea if one freeze-framed in front of me in broad daylight.

This year they seem numerous. One night a couple of weeks back I counted one going past the bedroom window every two to three seconds. Last night the sky seemed filled with them, so agile as they swoop and turn, flying just over our heads. The dogs seem unaware of them - they do not react at all.

I think they may well be roosting in the roof at the back of our bedroom. The hints are that it is that end of the house that we see them and there have been a lot of scratchy/squeaky noises at night since we have been spotting them.

I ventured into our loft earlier to try to see. I gave up as the slope of the roof was making it too difficult for me to pull back the insulation to get a good view. I had a brief moment of 'what am I doing up here' as I tried to work out how to get out again. After a few minutes of manoeuvring I managed to lower myself and stretch down to a solid footing.

For information on UK and Scottish bats see the Bat Conservation Trust

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Suanne Superstar

I have been well and truly deposed as the top internationally-rated female scrabble player.

Suanne Ong from Malaysia, who finished half a win and a place ahead of me in the 2007 world championships, became the first female, first Malaysian and youngest ever (16) to win the King's Cup in Bangkok last week.

A superb performance, finishing first on 20 wins out of 27 games and earning a place in the best of three final against the current world champion, Nigel Richards. I was told that she walked it, winning the first two games.

Her rating has leapt from 1939 to 2034, propelling her into 11th place. I am languishing on 1988, 46th. I should hate her but she is too nice :)

Malaysian scrabble also boasts the top rated player in the world, Ganesh Asirvatham, and is also where Nigel lives. Maybe I should emigrate...

Wild Strawberry Jam

So I was out dodging the drizzle - well, actually not dodging the drizzle this morning - picking my alpine strawberries. After having to eat the overripe ones I ended up with two pounds...

I searched the web unsuccessfully for a recipe and in the end decided to just treat them as 'normal' strawberries - equal quantities of sugar to fruit.

Wash/dry strawberries and place in jam pan with no extra water. Heat gently, stirring until they started to go mushy. Add the sugar and stir until all dissolved. Add juice of one lemon. Bring to the boil with no stirring. It reached the setting point after about five minutes. Take off the heat. Remove scum. Leave until begins to thicken in the pan. Stir to distribute fruit more evenly within the jam. Pot up.

It is an absolutely gorgeous colour and has given a really good yield. The pan scrapings tasted rather good too...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Poncho the Hunter

Poncho is obviously feeling his caninity in question after Jen's recent exploits.

Not to be outdone earlier this week he dived into the undergrowth by the bridge and came out with...a Scotch pie wrapped in clingfilm.

Hedgerow Review

It is interesting how the hedgerows vary from year to year. I certainly notice a lot more with dog walking each day.

Last year was a yellow year, with the buttercups and dandelions being the predominant 'wild flowers' in the verges right through, complemented with the fields of rape. With the continuous rain and bad weather it was not a good year for most of the hedgerow harvest. The one true exception to this was the sloes.

This year it is a white year. Those designers at the Chelsea flower show must have known something. After an early showing by the dandelions the carrot family has definitely taken over around here. Cow parsleys abound and despite a good spraying campaign there are still some giant hogweeds that escaped the massacre - at least half a dozen are standing tall and flowering in Margaret's (Poncho's) hay field. The may was late, more like may/june this year. Now the elders have taken over, putting on a magnificent display. Add to that the brambles and dog roses (although some of these are pale pink), which did not fare so well last year but are now covered in flowers.

Crab Apples - does not look as if there will be a good supply this year. The weather was not good when they were blossoming and the few fruits I can see are fairly high up in the trees.
Wild Cherries - not loaded but a lot better than the crab apples
Wild Raspberries - the large stand where we picked some last year looks as if there will be a lot more this time round.
Blackberries/Rose Hips/Elderberries - if the flowers are anything to go by I predict a bumper crop of all of these, as long as we do not get a prolonged period of bad weather now. Last year was very disappointing for all of these.
Haws - a bad year.
Sloes - no idea as I haven't been to my secret supply for a while to look. I would guess not good if the hawthorn is anything to go by. Luckily I still have a good supply in the freezer.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fragaria vesca 'Semperflorens'

When I inherited the garden there were a few alpine strawberry plants in the high bank, long bank and growing in the bank at the side of the drive. They are good ground cover and the strawberries, albeit small, have so much flavour.

Over the last couple of years they have spread, taking over larger and larger areas. They are all along the bottom of the high bank now - easy to pick there. Another patch at the back of the buddleia in the long bank, and a couple of patches in LB2, top and bottom. The ones in the drive bank are now working their way into the trellis bed, having completely colonised the area by the sheds. I need to dig out some more footholds - not easy to pick there. There is even a large patch on the drive itself, having sent the tendrils out from LB2. There are a lot worse garden thugs...I will not easily forget the creeping buttercups that had a stranglehold when we first moved up here.

I started cropping them a couple of weeks ago, getting a good handful every day. I also pick/eat a few most times I walk past the high bank.

They have obviously enjoyed our recent weather of rain and hot, if not always sunny, days. I have just got in from picking them after a couple of missed days and have filled a punnet - over a pound in weight - and it looks as if I will get almost as many again in another day or two. I am hoping they will survive in the fridge until then so that I can get enough to try to make alpine strawberry jam.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lost Dog Reunited with Owner

I just had to beat Huttonian to this scoop. Dogs AND FreeCycle. No doubt it will make the Berwickshire News next week...


Hi, (moderator hope this is ok)

A large tri colour hound type dog wearing a collar has been handed into
the BARK kennels Thursday Morning. We understand he was seen running
around Chirnside last night. He was picked up on the Chirnside Duns
Road near Briery Mill.

Please contact BARK if you have any information on 01289 306299


Thanks to Freecycle within minutes of posting a reply led to the owner
contacting the kennels.

Thank you on everyone's behalf

Words of Interest - BERDASH

I have just cleared my cardbox - 227 alphagrams before I got to the point of none waiting.

Up comes ABDEHRS and I quickly get the two answers and glance at the definitions.

BERDASH - an American Indian transvestite.

This needed to be investigated further. On checking in the dictionary: usually male, adopting not only the dress but also the status and role of the opposite sex. It can also be spelt BERDACHE. It is not to be confused with BURDASH, which is/was a fringed sash worn by gentlemen in the time of Anne and George I.

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