23 Dec

Christmas is upon us, and I for one have generally avoided the now usual consumer chaos and mayhem, and seeing these hordes of Norwichites in action in the city centre has convinced me that there is a valid reason for adding contraceptive chemicals to the Colonel’s secret “finger lickin’ good” recipe, Big Macs and Burger King burgers, and other fast foods.

We have bought a new vegetable book from Waterstones, and this will be helpful as we plan the planting of the planters. The dimension drawings have been completed, and I now know exactly where each of the joints in the timbers is going to be. I shall be again utilising halving joints throughout the frameworks; not exactly the world’s strongest woodworking joint, but one of the simpler ones to initially make, and backed up with foaming polyurethane wood glue and galvanised wood screws they will be more than adequate for my needs.

Last spring I dug out the gravel and ballast pathway that ran for 20 metres down our garden. It was playing hell with the lawnmower, and I had broken one ceramic plant pot and cracked a couple of others with small stones flicked up by the blades whizzing around at a great rate of knots.  I dug the path up to obtain the stones and gravel to re-lay the few slabs behind the workshop; Many years ago a previous occupant of our house had laid these slabs straight onto the soil albeit levelled, and the slabs were beginning to move about a bit and presented us with a couple of trip hazards, 2 or 3 slabs had also cracked and needed replacing.  Over a couple of weekends I dug this pathway out to a depth of about 20cm moving about 4 cu/mtr of material and gaining almost enough flints, chalks and gravel to fill a set of footings I had dug out to replace the slabs upon. The ratio was around 75% ballast to 25% topsoil. Initially I filled this trench with a lot of 2-3 year old Leylandii brash from a pile at the bottom of the garden, and covered this with a few centimetres of soil. Over the last few months this has settled down, and I now need approx 7 cm more soil to bring the pathway up to its original height or about 1.4 cu/mtr, which at an average soil density of 2.65 is about 3 ¾ tons before reseeding it with a mixture of grass seed, White & Purple Clover, and Chamomile, maybe even a little Feverfew and sprinkling of other aromatic leaf herbs.  I have been offered about 2 tons of turf removed from a lawn and replaced with decking, and this turf would be ideal for helping to fill this trench in, before adding a few wooden (reclaimed pallet timber) stepping stone (pads). I also need about 3 tons of manure to top dress our existing 8 sq/mtr vegetable patch, along with all the other flower borders, and various pots, troughs and planters. I can have as much horse and donkey manure that I want from a local sanctuary about 5 miles away, but unfortunately my car has been off the road for a couple of weeks due to a front suspension coil spring breaking; I’ve replaced the coil spring but I can’t get the bloody drive shaft back in. I have this need to be back up and running so that I can move these bulky materials. Up until now material movements for my business have been relatively straight forward; my local steel supplier will cut to length for free for me, and with my bicycle and trailer I can comfortably move 24 X 1 metre lengths of 10 mm X 30 mm flat bar, and 6 x 1 metre lengths of 10 mm round bar. It is a little over 4 miles across the city, but the return journey means hauling my bike plus trailer up Ketts hill.

Just before midnight on the 21st of December, I took Oz out for a late night wander around the playing field at the back of our house; mainly to give him our usual nightly routine last play with the Nite Ize LED light ball before bed time, and there were literally millions of worms up at the surface on the 2 Football pitches and the Cricket pitch with a flock of several hundred Blackbird size birds (too dark to confirm the species) feeding upon them, along with maybe 100 Toads. I’ve never seen a sight like this at night before, and especially not in mid-winter so I have put it down to the extremely mild weather we’ve had over the last couple of days. The Toads must have been awakened by the milder weather from their winter hibernation in Lionwood some 200 metres away. Interestingly enough; currently it is the dark of the Moon phase at the moment, with the new moon rising on the 24th, and it was low tide at Lowestoft at 00.26 (the most easterly point of mainland Britain which is approx 25 minutes of a degree east of here), and with the winter Solstice at 05.30 this morning the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere was approaching its lowest point of annual declination. That coupled with the unseasonal warm spell has made a rather unusual set of circumstances that I just happened to go out in.

We have a few Ash logs from two felled trees scattered about the garden, along with two or three stray Oak logs. The Ash tree stump, which I had levelled off a few weeks ago has begun to sprout fungi, which I have yet to identify. This got me thinking about inoculating a few of these hardwood logs with some Mushroom spore impregnated pegs and hopefully producing several varieties of mushrooms for the table. An Internet search turned up a couple of suppliers of these impregnated pegs, and about a dozen different varieties of Mushrooms. Alas, these pegs are only available in bags of 100 of single varieties; what I really want is 10 pegs of 10 varieties.

It has occurred to me that I have not used our food smoker since the day that my friend:  Jonathan had put one of my arrows through the door of it. Lois & I love the mature deep flavours of smoked food, and as we have chosen to eat Duck for Christmas dinner I think I’ll get the smoker repaired and chop up a seasoned oak branch for sawdust for the smoker.

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