In the bleak mid winter:

22 Dec

Saturday 17th December 2011

It is now snowing here in Norwich, and so we have that ubiquitous covering of soggy slush, and even the dog doesn’t want to go out. I spent an hour so in the workshop servicing the ladies hybrid ready for the exchange with my friend, and then I retired to the sofa with a nice hot cup of tea and my sketch book, a 2H and an HB pencil and whiled away an afternoon making drawings of the new planters I would like to make for our 9 sq/mtr project. These sketches also incorporated rough layout planting plans, but I am sure that this will be discarded as Lois takes charge and control of this aspect. I then received an unexpected telephone call from a gentleman from Richmond in north Yorkshire.

One of my cycling passions is AlleyCats, and 4 months ago I took over the organisation and running of the what up until then had been the odd  irregular AlleyCat, and it is now my ambition to conduct one each month.

AlleyCats are informal (and technically illegal!) point to point bicycle races that pass through waypoints or checkpoints. However, here in Norwich we have adopted the open to all sociable bicycle treasure hunt format, and this is proving to be very popular and successful. Competitors entrants have ranged from 16-67 years of age, and these have used all of the common styles of bicycles: Single Speed, Fixie, road bikes, Tricross, Mountain bike, BMX, commuter, roadie, hybrid, Dutch, hand built bespoke small wheeled racing bike (Mike Burrows no less), recumbent, tricycle, and best of all a couple in their mid 20’s on a tandem towing a toddler in a child carrier trailer, and even a young student in her electric assist wheel chair.

I have organised and conducted 3 Alleycats so far: September, October and November, and I am currently planning the December AlleyCat. At the last post Alleycat social we as a group made three decisions and one is that we now charge £1 fee per entrant, and from this money I am allowed to buy one set of Silva Orienteering card punches and use the rest of the money collected to purchase a Scalextric slot car racing set. The Silva card punches will be used to mark the AlleyCat clue sheets as proof of passage through and unmanned checkpoint, and the scalextric set will be modified to include pedal powered racing.  I have been running a wanted add on Norwich Gumtree and the a telephone call I received from the gentleman in Richmond was regarding the Norwich AlleyCat being offered a full Scalextric slot car racing set, but I have to organise the dispatch and shipping to us here in Norwich: no problem as Cargo Cycles has a business account with Parcelforce.

Sunday 18th of December 2011.

By midnight last night our light sprinkling of slush has all but thawed, but the temperature has plummeted to below freezing, so that this morning everywhere was covered in a layer of thin brittle cat  ice. However, it has started to snow again and this time it is settling.

Our garden is a mess; I’ve got stuff spread about all over the place and I really need to tidy it up a bit. There is over a ton of reclaimed pallet timbers stacked up, a poultry pen that I made last summer in panel form leaning against the fence at the bottom of the garden. At the top end close to the house I’ve a couple of Black & Decker workmates out, and several old bicycles in various states of being cannibalised for hair brained schemes and projects of mine. About  ⅓ of our lawn area has been fenced off with green plastic mesh and fence pins to allow the Autumn reseeded section the opportunity to grow without being hammered by Oz running up and down and me walking over it. When viewed from the bedroom window our garden looks a right mess, fortunately it will only take me about an hour or so to make it tidier.

Another problem in our garden is Oz; he is a veritable dog shit producing machine, and the way he is going about it at the moment he must be pursuing a pre-Christmas production and productivity bonus. The only benefit being is that he restricts himself to the garden, and will not drop one when we are out and about. Usually the clean up process only takes a couple of minutes each day, but with the colder weather I have not kept up with this daily duty, which has meant a 30 minute long clearing up session out in the snow this morning, and you have guessed it ….. I have managed to step in the only unfrozen sloppy smelly one!

We are only 4 days away from the winter Solstice, which is at 5.30am on the 22nd of December this year, and I for one cannot wait for the longer hours of daylight to come, even if we cannot really perceive the change until about the middle of January; the two or three weeks running up to the Winter Solstice is an almost physical barrier for me and my deep yearning for more daylight; I really do want live my whole life in a perpetual month of June!

The planning of the new 3 tiered planters is coming along nicely with dimension drawings almost completed, but now there is some doubt as to where one of them will be positioned. Two of the planters will be positioned hard up against the fence on the east side of the garden between a 2 foot diameter Ash tree stump, and the beginning of the Leylandii hedge on that side, and I may have to remove a small and straggly Buddleia tree. These will be the first of the new planters to be made, so that at least gives us the opportunity of a little more time to think about the positioning of the 3rd one. I am designing and making these planters with a predicted 5-7 years life span, and that is one of the main reasons for using reclaimed timber. After some thought, I would better off not adding drainage stones into the planters: our garden soil is very free draining, and we did experience some moisture retaining and irrigation issues throughout last summer. I have a soil and stone mine at the bottom of the garden; it is really a big heap of material that was removed from the hole as the previous owner dug out a garden pond. This pond was filled in 2 years ago the easy way with bought in gravel, and a wooden decked area built on top of this; Tommy Walsh and BBC Groundforce still have a lot to answer for! It is my reckoning that there was originally 12-14 tons of topsoil in the heap, and so far I have already used about ⅓ of this filling the original 3 planters, and refilling a trench where a previous ballast & gravel path was in the garden. I have riddled out all of the soil I have used in the 12 months, and it has an approximate ratio of 2 parts gravel and flints to 3 parts topsoil. Fortunately I have other plans for this pile of burden that I am currently accumulating; ballasting the base of fence posts for the Chicken run being one of them.

I have got Lois reading an article on square foot gardening that I have downloaded via Google, while I rush around trying to repair the badly damaged rear wheel of the ladies hybrid bike, which just might have to be scrapped due to a very badly corroded 5 speed, free wheel assembly. The snow has all but thawed, and I am bloody cold, as I fiddle about with this bicycle in the workshop.

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