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Those were the words of the penultimate sentence of my last entry.

Despite the wall-to-wall sunshine today, it was really, really cold.  If you stopped for more than a couple of minutes, you could feel it seeping into your bones.

So the answer was to not stop.

And we didn’t!

Today, we were blessed with many willing volunteers, and we certainly made good use of the time.  Unfortunately, these posts are kind of limited to 1000 words (…unless I hack it, and to be honest, I haven’t got the strength tonight.), so there’s no way I can put everything that happened in so short a space.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.

But I’ll just highlight some of the wonderful things that have happened today…

Firstly, and most importantly it was the banking just down from the main road that needed finishing off.  We’ve been kindly awarded some money if we could get this done by the end of January.

So, we’re two days late.The New Path

Here is a shot of that path we were working on last Thursday, and you can now see that we’ve finished laying the ‘foundation’ for this path, and Gary and Tom had just finished laying a layer of the ubiquitous woodchip over the top. We fully realise that this path will ‘sink’ as the privet and other cuttings rot down beneath, but we’ve got loads of spare soil to whack on as it does. Then we can add another fine layer of woodchip over the top as we have here, and as you can see, it makes a very serviceable path. Again, Derek, Gary and I lopped more branches from the overhanging trees and bushes so the pathway is now clear of obstruction.

Also in this area, as part of the grant, we’ve been working on the surrounding paths and beds.More pathway laid

If you do a 180 degree from that last shot, you’ll see the shot on the left here.  Up until a few minutes previously, this was a mud-bath as we’d been literally running along and up it with fully-laden wheelbarrows (…I told you we had to keep warm!), but Gary and Tom worked their woodchip-magic, and you can appreciate the result.

We’d also been busy further along and down by the compost bins.  Here, Barry had very artistically laid a load of woodchip that was set aside nearby for this very purpose.Woodchip around the compost bins

Elsewhere, and Sara, Pam and Carol were having fun with the 45 million Plot Kids that made an appearance.  Actually, I’m exaggerating here.  It was more like only 10-or so, but if felt like much more. Plot Kids have this great way of seeming to be everywhere, all at the same time.

After a very swift lunch (…did I mention just how bitingly cold it was?..), Carol had brought a treasure hunt to keep the kids busy for an hour while Jon and I fed the bees.

“What are you up to?” asked one of the little girls.

“Feeding the bees!” I replied.


“Well, we’ve got some really tiny little spoons, so Jon and I will sit there for a few minutes, and as each one comes out, we’ll give it a quick spoonful of this sugar syrup we’ve been warming especially for them before it flies away.”

“Cooo!” she said…

In reality, we checked our two remaining hives to see just where we would put the slightly-warmed sugar syrup, went and got it, and by the time we came back to put the feeders on, there were quite a few crawling around beneath where we put them.  So all’s well with the bees.

In laying that new path above the banking, we’ve used quite a lot of privet cuttings and other partially-rotted muck that was sat all around the site.  In particular, there were various piles around in a ‘dead space’ that we’d been meaning to put raised beds on this season. I don’t have the photos of it, but I can now definitively say that this area by the bottom of the entrance path is now much clearer, so in a few weeks, Gary and the rest of us can work our magic and build raised beds using the scaffolding boards we bought last season, then fill them from the remainder of the earth that has been on ‘The Mound’ that had virtually nothing in it last season.

All exciting stuff, and I’ll be sure to keep you, Dear Reader, fully up to date with developments and progress.

Today, we were all done and put away by an astonishing 4.50pm, just as the sun was starting to dip below the horizon.

We like this.  Do the work, clear away, then home for tea.

But not before finally feeding Mitzi for the night.


We can relax now. 31/01/13

Yesterday, the weather really was truly awful.

It was cold, wet (obviously), and worst of all was the wind.  Just walking over to The Plots, I was nearly blown horizontal, and my snug, woollen hat was nearly blown off more than once.

Extra exciting was the way the wind caught the sharp hail and then threw it upwards into your face and eyes.

The polite word for it?  …Hmmm…  “Exhilarating.”  Yes, that’s polite enough, I feel, and kind of gives you a taste for those ice crystal in your eyes.

When I finally made it down there, there really wasn’t much happening, or even much we could usefully do.

It was far too windy to even put a tethered-down gazebo up, so myself, Matt, Jon and Gary huddled in the metal shed.

Of course, drinking tea!

We shut up shop early: there were obviously no more volunteers to be had -it was far too miserable.

On getting home last night, I quickly took a shower -mainly to warm up!- then checked the weather for today.  And it looked much better.

And it was!

I arrived just before 10.00, opened up and got the kettle on.  PXI Nick then arrived just as I was deep into a phone call with Diane.

Diane has been “skating on the ice”, and broken something major in her left leg.  Major enough to keep her from The Plots.

So, I’ve been drafted in to handle the allotment side of things while she recovers.  That doesn’t mean she’s being idle, though!  She’ll be doing much-needed paperwork while her leg heals fully.

After the phone call, Nick and I got on with the Morrisons Project up on our banking below the road. We’d been instructed to carry on with the top path, made using long branches, wooden stakes, and all other manner of stuff found around our site.The New Path

Here it is just after we’d started on the right.

Previously, Diane and volunteers had done the far end of it, but we had to do this end, putting the new stakes in, then ‘back filling’ with long lengths of wood, then smaller stuff.

P1000974And we made great progress!  Here you can see Nick carefully tamping down the sticks and twigs to provide a suitable base for the top layers.

Pretty soon, Jon, Matt and Gary arrived, then Sara, so after a quick cup of tea, we carried on, and with the five of us ‘lads’, work progressed at an astonishing rate of knots.

While Matt and Jon got smaller branches to put in the bottom, Gary and I barrowed partially rotted privet clippings from various builders’ bags scattered around the site.

Nick had to go soon after midday, so the four of us carried on, until there was a plaintive ‘Miaooooow!’

It was little Mitzi-Moos, bless her!

While the lads carried on, I went to feed her -obviously, you’ve got to get your priorities right!

She had a little food, but then was much more interested in ‘having a chat’ with me.  We’ll, she had lots to tell me, for I haven’t seen her in literally months!Mitzi-Moos!

I managed to get my camera out without her literally knocking it out of my hands.

And to the right here is the result.

Whilst I was making a huge fuss of her, I surreptitiously checked her over, and she appears to be in fine condition.  Glossy coat, bright eyes, and look rather portly, even when you consider she’s wearing her ‘winter coat’ (…’Fur is soooo ‘in’ this season, Daahhling’…). so we can relax.  Mitzi, our beloved Honorary Vice-ChairCat is safe and well.  Phew!

Anyway, soon after this, long-time LEAF friend and helper, Carol came down to help Sara in the greenhouse, clearing out the old chili plants, so for today at least, we were a big happy family.

The next session is not while Saturday, and once again, I’ve checked the weather, and it’s set to be sunny & bright, but a little on the chilly side.

So, we’ll just have to keep busy!

More soon!

What? No rain?! 05/01/13

Difficult to believe, but today the clouds have not opened on us!  Okay, it was very dull and grey, but as I said last night, there was no rain, and today we were blessed by loads of volunteers, all happy to get ‘stuck in’.

At this time of year, what with there being virtually nothing growing, no weeds to pull, and the ground being so wet, there wasn’t much we could do ground-wise, but that didn’t stop volunteers getting their hands dirty with ‘infrastructure’ jobs.

While Jordan, Diane and I carried on clearing fallen leaves from the banking, Derek carried on building a bench above The Orchard Plot.P1000942

Double click on the image to the right here, and you’ll see it in all its glory.

Last year, Ian (no relation) and I had done some work up there, and remarked on how those longer stumps to the rear of the bench would be great for some kind of seat.

We’d envisaged just some humble planking strung between those two uprights.

But Derek had other, much grander ideas!

Diane and I got a chance to sit on it before it was painted by the kids, and I can certainly say that this bench is going nowhere!P1000940

To the left here is one of the girls applying the first of many coats of ‘our’ standard coloured external, water-based, wood preservative.

During all the excitement of trying out the new bench, I slipped away down to my plot 34, right down the lane.

Now, towards the end of last year, I was tremendously busy doing other, far more boring, stuff.  Who would look after my Plot?

Luckily, Gary, one of LEAF’s longest-serving volunteers said he’d keep it for me whilst I was away.

And keep it he certainly did!

The man really is a ‘Human Digger’!P1000934

To the right here is just one of the beds he’s dug over and carefully weeded.

I know I don’t like using the word, but the only one that springs to mind is: ‘Awesome’.

But where was my favourite olive tree?

I looked around, panicking that he’d somehow mistaken it for a weed and it was now dying in a compost heap somewhere.

But I needn’t have worried!P1000931

I just did a quick 180, and there it was, safe and sound, right by the side of the sitting area, and with more leaves on it than ever.


After a hasty lunch, work continued apace with Matt and Pam arriving and getting straight down to work, and as I left late this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that Pam had already moved most of the chrysanthemums out of their ‘summer bed’ into the greenhouse.  Here these will safely winter, so in early spring she can take cuttings from them ready to replant out in late spring.

Hopefully, this year they’ll have some decent weather in which to bloom!

All too soon it was time for me to head home, but as I left, there was the happy sound of laughter and banter across our plots.

Now, after the inevitable snow, could we PLEASE have some decent weather?!

Despite the relatively balmy weather, there were very few volunteers about today, but that didn’t stop the few of us cracking on and getting stuff done for Autumn and ready for winter.

While Gary and Diane cleared the top of the orchard plot, Jordan and I cleared some of the leaves that had fallen all over the top of our plots, making them look very scruffy.

Big rakes, big builders’ bags, and big hands to catch and scoop up the leaves.  All good fun and a great way to keep warm.

While Jordan and I did this, I eyed up the strawberry plants that had only been planted in the tires a few months ago, and already they were beginning to send out long runners into the path below.

Ha!  I soon put a stop to that!

While Diane wasn’t looking, I went across the whole of the tire bank and, using a pair of hedge cutters, I chopped off all the runners and their offspring, and the tire bank and pathway beneath looked much better afterwards!  Good therapy too.

Of course, I’ll probably get told off for this, but they’ll grow back; of that there is no doubt whatsoever.

Anyway, I’d better get off.  I’m just finishing off an ‘Electric Bike’ for our friends over at Trade Base.

Back soon!



Last Tuesday the 22nd saw parties of schoolchildren learning and having fun under the watchful eyes of Diane and a whole host of teachers and classroom assistants.  Part of their learning was to weed two small beds, and while little hands make light work, we’re not complaining!  We’ll be able to get stuff in these at the weekend.  A big “Thank You!” to them for this work!

After about a pint of squash after the children had left, it was my job to see the damage on the clay oven now it had fully cooled down, and if possible, put it right.The surface of Mars?

As you can see to the right, it took quite a ‘hammering’, but as I’ve already said, this is only to be expected and natural.  As the water gets gradually driven out of the clay and sand, its bound to crack.  To try to prevent it, we’d need PVA or similar, and we’re not going down that route.

If you click to enlarge this photo, down to the right you’ll see a hand print.  This is not wanton vandalism!  This is, in fact, Matt’s hand print, proudly displaying to the world that he finished it off, thank you!

Patched!We have quite a bit of puddled clay already mixed from way back when we made the first layer, so I wasted no time in getting a bucket-load of it, and started to patch it up.

This shows the right hand side of the oven and you can see just how massive some of these cracks were.  Nothing was loose or falling off, and once you got your head around just how deep some of these were -and how much ‘gobbo’ they took, it was fairly pleasant work.

Pretty soon, Matt, Diane and Gary came over to give me a hand, and between us, we got it all looking ship-shape.

To the right here is the same area as the first photo, but this time sans the massive canyons.Finished!

As you can see, Matt’s print is still there, and Gary very thoughtfully and carefully patched around it to preserve it’s unique shape.

To the left of this photo, you’ll just make out the isolated ‘blob’.  This was one of my patches.  Some little rat-bag had inscribed ‘sooky‘ in the clay, so I covered it up.  Mitzi takes a very dim view of vandals, and can be very vocal in those views.  Of course, this is after she’s clawed someone’s eyes out.

Back to happier matters, and the wonderful oven stand that Ian (no relation) made last weekend.Ian's wonderful oven stand.

And here it is!  You’d never guess that this was made using an old plastic and metal school chair and a piece of heavy-gauge grilling!  Notice how it all just seems to fit together so well.  Awesome!

This little stand was instrumental in the first successful cooking of one of Matt’s fabled rhubarb pies.  I’m sure that without it and the airflow it provides under a dish, it wouldn’t have cooked anything like as well as it did.

And so to today.  I briefly went down to The Plots for about lunchtime, and not surprisingly, given the heat, there wasn’t a Big Lot being down.

At one point, Diane was half-heartedly digging over a bed that will very soon be host to a load of salad stuff, and this little chap cheekily came over, loudly shrilling at us.Get on with the digging!

It seemed like he was shouting, “Get on with the digging!  I’ve got a family to feed here!”

Anyway, he left with ore than a beak full of worms and grubs, and luckily Mitzi wasn’t around to see him.

Still, what with the heat and all, even if she had seen him, it would be a case of, “…Yeah.  Whatever.  It’s far too hot to even think about chasing you!”

Tomorrow’s forecast is for more of the same, so I may well pop down to see my own badly-neglected plot in the afternoon.  I’ll find some shade, turn on Classic FM very quietly and doze.

Just like Mitzi!



Not A Big Lot of work done down our Plots today, and what little was done was in preparation for today’s ‘main event’ which was for the first using and cooking with the pizza oven in its 99.999% finished state.  I say 99.999% because Matt wants to add a taller chimney, and of course when its all cooled down, we need to patch yet more cracks in the outer layer of clay.Aaaargh!  Cracks in the clay!

As I arrived today, Ian (no relation) was busy by the oven, at work building a metal stand for use inside it to sit dishes on.  This would be to lift them off the extremely hot bricks and ash, allowing a ‘cooler’ airflow to cook dishes more slowly.

In theory.

To make this stand, he used a very old plastic and metal chair, some heavy-duty wire meshing we had, a hacksaw and a lump hammer.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of this yet, but I’ll get some next time I’m down.  We were too busy using it today, and I kind of had my hands full with the oven which at it’s ‘peak temperature’ we reckon hit more than 400°C.  You’ll agree, just a little hotter than your average one at home!

As you can see up to the right here, when I arrived, it was ‘Crack City’ across the top and sides, but we weren’t worried in the slightest!

I can vividly remember the first time we ever fired this oven up ‘In Rage’ last year for the open evening in Autumn and we’d just finished that first layer.  If you check back on the photos, you’ll see we just had the single layer and by the time I first lit it, it wasn’t even dry!

Now we have not one, but two layers of clay and clay and straw beneath this top layer, there’s no chance whatsoever it will collapse -as I feared that first evening last year.

As I started to fill up these cracks with some clay we had left over, I was joined by Jordan, Shaun and Matt.  Pretty soon we were all happily patching away as Ian worked nearby,  his stand now finished, working on a tool to easily get to trays and dishes while the oven is hot.

When we’d done most of the serious cracks, I lit it (…more to keep warm than anything else.  It was freezing today!..), and we carried on patching the smaller ones.Quickly up to temperature.

To the left here is less than an hour after we’d lit it.  If you click on the image you’ll see those two great chunks of wood I’d thrown in less than a minute before I took this shot.

Because it was just so stinking hot in the oven, when I put these two pieces in together, I timed it before they caught fire.

On a ‘normal’ fire, when you put pieces on like this, only the parts actually exposed to the flames burn straight away, with the ‘outer’ parts taking much longer to catch.  With these, less than a minute after they’d gone in, they totally ‘lit’ with flame licking all over them.

Yes.  That hot!

While these two great lumps of wood were burning down to hot cinders, Ian was busy making the afternoon’s first ‘dish’.  This would be a ‘starter’ of potatoes cut into largish chunks, parsnips, shallots and cloves of garlic, all roasted in heavy-duty tin foil with oil and herb seasoning.

Using Ian’s newly made baking tray to stand the packets on, these seemed to cook in no time at all.

Of course, they were delicious!

By this time, Sara had prepared the pizzas.  Using dough she’d made up earlier and left to ‘prove’ at home (…Awesome!..) and vegetables that Matt had been to the market for and some tomatillos he still got left from last year (!!!), Sara then invited LEAF volunteers to make their own pizzas for me to cook in the oven -much as we’d done so successfully last year and we plan to do a week on Wednesday for the Environment Weeks Open Evening.The year's first pizza.  Quickly, before it all disappears!

This seemed to work really well.  By allowing people to put their own toppings on, they were guaranteed to like everything that had gone on the pizza!

We made about 9 pizzas in total today, each one decorated and topped by a volunteer or Plot Kid, and everyone agreed, they were much better than the ones you buy from the supermarket.  Obviously.

By now, the oven had ‘simmered down’ a little, and Matt had brought a pie he’d prepared last night.  It was made with the year’s first rhubarb from his plot, a little sugar and he’d made a crumble topping.

The crumble just before it went in the oven.To the left is a shot of the raw crumble just before it went in the oven.

Now, when Matt makes one of these at home, it takes about forty minutes at a medium heat to cook.

I didn’t properly time it, but it certainly took less time than that in our oven.

At first, we put it in without a tin foil covering, and the top started to burn slightly, but I took it out and wrapped it, and kept turning it through 180° every few minutes to make sure both sides were cooking.

In not time at all it seemed, when I turned it round, the side that had been exposed to the full heat of the oven was already happily bubbling away.

It was soon cooked, but before I’d even had chance to get my camera out, it was being dived into by volunteers eager to taste it.

All I ended up with was this:-Whoops!  All gone!

Those two bowls were for Diane and Jon.

Needless to say, just like Sara’s pizza, Matt’s pie was ace!

Unfortunately, there’ll be no ‘Plotting’ tomorrow.  Diane and I have a Big Lot of paperwork to catch up with, and before that I have an important date with the electric bike and the PIC programmer back here at Wardian Towers.

But, the weather is set to improve greatly this next week.  Hooray for that!  We (…and our bees!..) love the sunshine and warmth.

It kind of makes you feel happier inside when the sun’s shining, I think.

Oh, and talking of ‘Happy’, I presented Matt with his new camera today after I’d fitted the new screen to it.

And yes.  He was happy!



Phew! 17/05/12

What a day!

Thursday is a regular ‘LEAF Day’ up at The Plots and if the weather’s good, then we normally get a good number of volunteers.  Today however, despite the rain forecast, The Plots seemed to be heaving with people!

But before most of them arrived, it was ‘Clay Time’, which funnily enough rhymes with ‘Play Time’, and this morning was definitely a morning for Grown Ups Playing With Clay.

PXI Nick was there, and he was very keen to ‘get his feet dirty’, take his shoes and socks off and get stuck in.PXI Nick, before he got stuck in, looking on in trepidation.

Well, he said he was keen, and certainly wasted no time in getting barefoot, but when Diane had laid out one of the batches I had done over the weekend, he didn’t look quite so enthusiastic.

As you can see here to the right!

He soon got into it though, after the initial ‘OUCH that’s cold!’ as he first put his feet into it.

The plan was to re-do the mixes I’d done and if necessary, mix some together in case some batches were ‘wetter’ than others.

Yay!  This is <i>great</i> fun!As you can see here to the left, after the initial shock of the cold of the clay, he very quickly got into it, and was soon happily dancing up and down.

Of course, it helped that there were so many other people around to encourage him on.

Meanwhile, Matt and I made a start on the ‘final’ coat of clay on the oven itself.

This top coat didn’t need the insulating straw in it -this was just a final ‘top coat’ to give it a nice finish, rather than the ugly ‘High Altitude Elephant’s Extreme Surprise’ we left it as the other afternoon.

Matt and I putting on the top coat.As the weather forecasters had said today would be showery, we put gazebos up on both the puddling area and over the oven itself.  It didn’t really matter to the clay that it should get wet, but as we’d rather stay dry, it seemed sensible.

Here we are to the right with our two different techniques.  Matt favoured the small lumps and carefully placed on, making sure it stuck properly.  I was more for the ‘throw it on and pick up off the floor what doesn’t stick’ method.  As Matt said, both valid ways, and both very entertaining to watch.  Ian and Graham (Both no relation.) sat and watched us right the way through, continually making ‘helpful comments’ like: “You missed a bit!” and “Is it meant to look like that?”

All said and done in the best possible way!

We realised that we’d need two more mixes to really finish it off, so we went back up to the top mixing area.  Nick quickly took his shoes and socks off again, and this time Ian decided to give it a try!  The three of us had great fun working on these two mixes, and I really must say it makes a whole world of difference having more than one of us doing this.Ian and I with Nick, busy in the background.

You’re no doubt wondering over all these photos, and how they were taken given that I’d promised to spare my new camera the indignity of sand and clay.  Thankfully, ‘Ace Lens Diane’ was on hand to take these shots.

Here are Ian and myself about halfway through ‘our’ mix, with Nick busy in the background.

After only a few minutes it seemed, these mixes were done and ready to be applied to the dome.

Matt had been busy down at the oven with the plasterer’s float, smoothing off this top layer, so we brought down the final mixes and while I slapped it on (…A scientific term, this…), he expertly went round the whole dome getting it to an almost mirror finish.Matt, proud of his work!

Here he is, happy in the knowledge that he’s done an absolutely perfect job!

With the clay work now finished, we wasted no time in getting it lit and starting to dry.  Shaun helped me get a fire going with some of the wood that Ian had cut a few weeks ago when we got the ultimate Big Boy’s Toy -the axe.

Pretty soon, I was feeding wood in a quite a rate -as you have to do to get a fire going really well.

I did notice though that once it was up to temperature, it didn’t need much more fuel to keep that temperature up, and also that it didn’t rapidly heat and cool as it had tended to do in the past.

Maybe it was my imagination, but I don’t think so.  We’ll see on Saturday when we use it ‘in rage’, properly finished for the first time.

A quick lunch, then Charles our new Head Beekeeper arrived.  Over to the hives, then!

Today, we would be swapping over the lower dark drown brood boxes that came with the bees for more of our new brood boxes.

The top of the hive off, along with the top super and queen-excluder.Because we currently have three hives, Jon, Shaun and I were each ‘chosen’ to go in the hives with Charles keeping an ever-watchful eye on us to make sure we didn’t make any stupid mistakes.

You may think that this is easy, but take it from me, there’s been so much to learn about these little creatures in so short a time, each of us was ‘on edge’ when faced with a hive with more than 30,000 bees in!

This shot to the left shows yours Charles and I after we’d taken the top of the hive off checking the top brood box for signs of the queen laying eggs in it.

Happily, there were plenty of newly laid eggs in abundance.Checking for brood and for the queen.

Here I am to the right here, checking the top brood box, and you can clearly see the frame with new comb on it built in only a few days by the workers.

At this point, I must say that even though this may look an easy thing to do, it’s really not!  Making sure you pick the frames up in the correct manner, disturbing the bees as little as possible is pretty difficult stuff -especially for ‘newbies’!

The queen wasn’t in this top box -she’d wisely gone straight down into the lower box to get away from all the confusion, noise and light from above.

So that meant she was in the bottom box -the one we were going to swap.

Carefully lifting the bottom brood box.This shot is as I lifted the old brood box off the hive floor.  I carefully placed this to one side, always conscious that there was a valuable queen in there.  If I was to accidentally squash her, we’d lose at least a couple of months’ worth of honey production.

With the old brood box safely off, Charles carefully inspected the hive floor for signs of varroa mite and finding only a couple, I replaced it with a brand new brood box.

To the right here you can see Shaun as he is placing the old frame into his new brood box, and you can see how carefully he’s inspecting the frame.Shaun carefully inspecting each frame.  He’d never been inside a hive before -he missed the last bee training course- so he was especially in awe of the bees.

To say he was a complete beginner, he did very well, though -You really wouldn’t have known it was his first time, he handled them that well!

Jon did all the above for the last frame, but for some reason, I have no shots of this.  Take it from me though that he handled himself very well!

All too soon (…it seemed!..), it was time for Charles to leave.  I thought he’d only been around a matter of minutes, but when I checked my watch, I found well over an hour had passed!  Astonishing.

After Charles had gone (…along with most of the afternoon, it seemed!..), we went back to check the clay oven.Finally finished and fired-up!

The roaring flames had died down pretty much, but the heat still coming off it was terrific!

We did notice that by the chimney the clay was starting to crack, but Shaun found some unused clay mix and skilfully patched it, and it now looks as good as new.  We knew this would happen -it’s happened on every layer so far, and we were satisfied that the cracks can only be about 3 inches deep -through one layer.

In total, the walls of this oven are in excess of 9 inches thick.

Yes, that’s quite a lot of clay -but sooooo worthwhile!Ian and I, happy after our puddling efforts today.

Tomorrow, after a hopefully brief visit into town to ‘see a man about a cat’ (…bit like ‘a man about a dog’, but this is a feline household…), I’ll be straight back here to carry on with the electronics and hopefully the programming for the electric bikes.

Of course, this will be after I’ve changed the screen that arrived today in that camera so I can present it to Matt on Saturday, fully fixed and working.  I may even charge the battery for him.

He will be pleased!

So, this last photo here to the right of myself and Ian kind of sums up the feelings of all today’s volunteers after a hard day’s work.

Tired, but happy.

More on Saturday, but this time with added pizza.

Yum to that!



Okay, okay. I give in! 16/05/12

You found me out.

Don’t tell me that when you were a kid you never snuck downstairs in the wee small hours of Christmas day to see if Santa had been, and if he had, then what he’d left you!

I went over to my allotment at lunchtime today to find Ian happily planting the cabbages and peas that I’d promised myself I’d do, but no worries.

After a brief chat, we headed up to LEAF to see what was happening.

At first, Not A Big Lot, but pretty soon people started to arrive, Ian left for the day (…He was knackered -he’d been up since the crack of dawn…), and I went about setting up the gear required to puddle yet more clay.

In the end, what with volunteers, visitors and the ‘Call Of The Kettle’ (…i.e. Tea!..), I only managed one mix of puddling, but I reckon another one tomorrow morning should see the whole thing done and finished.  Well, by that I mean all the clay done; what Matt does with it afterwards we’ll have to see, but he should have enough to work with.  If he wants any more for some outlandish sculpture, then he knows where the clay, sand and straw are…

(Only half joking!)

So, back to Wardian Towers, a quick shower and I’m just working on the sensor system to detect wheel movement.

I did have it as a single magnet mounted on the wheel with a little reed switch mounted on the rear of the frame, but as this is officially pratty, and any bike used on the machine will need this modification, I decided to mount an opto sensor on the shaft of the generator to give individual counts of the generator shaft revolving.

This involves a fair amount of, er, ‘ingenuity’ (…This is where ‘ingenuity’ = ‘bodgery’…), and believe it or not, the lid of a tin of salmon I ate last night.

Don’t worry if you’re confused.  I’ll get some photos when I’m done and it works later on this evening.

Anyway, I’d better get off.  Lots to do.

Better than Christmas. 16/05/12

I can still vividly remember Christmas as a child.  In many ways, the actual anticipation of the Great Day was as good, if not better, than the day itself.

And so it was this morning.

I was up well before the alarm went off (…one of the many advantages of having a cat who’s ruled by his stomach…), then just a few minutes ago, the doorbell rang with it’s usual ‘Ding - Dooooong’, and I wondered who it could be.  …Surely not?

“Farnell Delivery!”  Said the guy at the door.

“Oooohh!  Goody!” I exclaimed.The parts have arrived!

And so I took the large box from the chap, went inside and unwrapped it like a nine year old on Christmas morning.

Wrapping paper everywhere (…Laddo just loves this…), I found the delivery note and started to check stuff off.

Squeals of delight as all the new components were laid out.  A PIC processor, chip sockets, transistors, resistors, 7-segment displays, it was all there.

BUT, like the Victorian children of old, this will all have to wait ’til ‘Boxing Day’ this Friday because until then, I’ll have no time -there’s way too much to do down at LEAF this week!

Yes, I’ll still be working on the oven, but I can feel the end is definitely in sight with this.  One more mix, maybe two, then it’ll be done, and we’ll be able to enjoy pizza, bread and whatever else our Plotting Chefs can think of.

So, the washing machine has very nearly finished, the weather is looking good, so its on with the shorts (…Eeek!..), lace up my boots and off to work I go…


Yet more clay puddling. 14/05/12

I must confess, I’m starting to get more than a little bored by all this clay work now.

Its starting to lose it’s shine as I trudge to The Plots, secure in the knowledge that bar a lightning strike, a freak whirlwind or it suddenly raining washing machines, there’s going to be Wardo with his shoes and socks off, trudging round the polythene tarpaulin, suffering the stares and jeers from folk and kids on the road above in just a few minutes.

This morning, Wardian Towers was a hive of misplaced activity as I put off the moment of finally going out of the door.

All the dishes were washed, dried and put away; I’d cleaned the bathroom, hells, I’d even thought about washing my bedding.Happy Mitzi!

Luckily, that activity was put off in favour of opening up my old camera to discover that, as I’d suspected, the display had got broken in my fall a couple of months ago on the ice.  So, I’ve ordered a new one from eBay, and Matt has his name on it when its fixed, fettled and fully functional.

So, back to the early afternoon, and I met Matt on his plot, busy in his greenhouse.  A quick ‘Hello!’, then a short walk up the lane.

Back at The Plots, and I quickly got out the stuff I needed.  Once I got started it wouldn’t seem so bad, I was sure of it.

And I was right!  Within just a few minutes, I was bouncing away on the clay which started off very tough, but soon worked into a smooth paste, happy as a happy thing.

Yes.  You’re right.  It doesn’t take much.

Today, I was back to traditional ‘puddling’, so there was no straw involved, just sand, clay and lots of toe-breaking effort.

Once again, no cameras allowed -certainly not mine- so that’s why there’s a shot of Mitzi-Moos looking very happy today after I’d fed her.

I’ve yet to see a bad shot of Mitzi.  Maybe in a previous life she was a model?

Aaaah, you beat me to it!  Yes, a Cat Walk model!

Anyway, today I managed three ‘little mixes’ which probably equals about one and a half of the larger ones we were doing last Saturday, and I figure that we’ll need another two, possibly three before we can let Matt have his way and decorate the oven wildly.

Matt came up as I’d just finished my second mix, and very thoughtfully lit the oven again.The oven, lit again.  He very quickly had it going nicely, and if you click to enlarge the photo on the left, you should hopefully just be able to make out the waft of steam coming off the oven, drifting to the left.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seemed to me that not only did Matt get it hotter, quicker today, but that it held it’s heat much better.  Even as we were leaving a couple of hours later it was still very hot, and it didn’t seem to need feeding every couple of minutes like it used to.

Maybe it’s all in my imagination, but you can be sure that when we get the final coat of clay on it, I’ll be checking it very thoroughly to see just what it can do.

I’ll leave you, Dear Reader with a shot I took just before we left for the evening.Close up of the straw layer.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, then use your imagination a little, you will possibly smirk as you try to imagine the elephant that must have been flying high overhead at just the right time, and suddenly got very, very scared.

Or is that just me having been out in the sun too long?

Back in your cage, Wardo.

Tomorrow, it looks set for rain, and anyway, I have a load of seeds to plant and young plants that need to go outside, so no LEAF fun for me.

Still, there’s always Wednesday!

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