Tuesday, 13 December 2011

AA walk in the park...

You better watch out...

You better not cry...

You better not pout...

I'm telling you why...

Santa Claus...

IS COMING TO TOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Top Shelf Reading Material...

My week...

Click then right click to enlarge this rubbish!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Joys of Self Employment...

It's been a solid fortnight of work here at base camp. So no posts.

All of a sudden, despite the recession, everybody wants thier work doing - and doing yesterday. After what seems like a working desert during the spring, it's caused me to reflect on what it means to be self-employed these days.

I know I'm lucky to have a lot of work on. I've been doing what I do for over 13 years on my own and I like to think I do a good job - hence the repeat work. But sometimes it's hard going.

I've been told I 'thrive' on pressure which I can honestly say is bullshit. Deadlines are horrible when they are relentlessly one-after-the-other and it's easy to get burnt out.  Things like decorating, gardening, days out, buying hats etc. become treats - (God, I never thought decorating would be a treat! Actually it's not. Forget that - decorating is also horrible.)

Dealing with demanding and belligerent clients, however has become much easier of late. Since earlier in the year, I now have a much keener idea of the value of time now. I find it much easier to say the word 'NO' and that is a very powerful word I can tell you.

"Can we just tweek"..."NO!"
"Would you be able to just"..."NO!"
"Do you want help with your packing sir..." "NO!" (easy to get caried away with the no's)

Chasing invoices - what fun! It really is. I can heartily recommend it as a stress relieving activity.

It is now anyway.

After a recent chat with my bank manager, I have invested in a brand new bit of company kit. And it's gonna make the job a whole lot easier...

Dear Sirs, Your invoice is now overdue...

Friday, 4 November 2011


Way back when, when I used to work in a busy architects practice in the city, I'd often stay late or at weekends and work on my own little projects for 'fun'. Test shots I used to call them. I'd model up buildings on the Macs and do little animations of space stations, jumping Pixar lamps and other useless activities (I do this for a living now).

In the evenings and especially at weekends, I would often see some of my colleagues skulking around the office furtively tapping away at thier computers or loitering around printers which were kicking out huge sheets of paper containing plans or elevations of some architectural scheme. Thier own 'private' schemes. This sneaky nocturnal activity was commonly known in the trade as doing a 'PJ' or 'private job' and many an architectural practice has begun life via pilfering work away from the mother company as employees set-up on thier own, I can tell you.

I'm wearing pj's now. It's 3.30 am and I can't sleep. I've had one of those disturbing dreams that keep you awake long after you've forgotten what the dream was about. Which I have. Pj's were part of the dream though - hence the post (hopefully a boring enough post that it'll make me sleepy again). My pyjamas tonight consist of some long green tartan 'bottoms' made of brushed cotton (very warm) and a long-sleeved t-shirt. (Yawn).

Donald where's me troosers?
Not so warm though that I'd want to go out into the night in them to feed the chickens, like some people in North Wales often do (I'm sure there's some sort of law against indecent exposure).

When I first got my plot on the allotment site, I once made a few fake big cat prints in the mud as a 'practical joke', just to watch the old boys start thier own rumours and folklore about the huge predator prowling around the countryside. To this day they are still talking about the big cat. I'll have to create some more tiger prints soon.

Which reminds me of an incident a few years back. I'd driven to pick up a job in an area around the town of Leek in Staffordshire, which is near to the Peak District National Park. It's fairly hilly around there and the roads are twisty and turny. This particular road was cut into a hillside and was reasonably quiet. I remember coming around a bend and having to stop at a set of temporary traffic lights for some road-works. There were two cars in front of me, then a space of about 75 yards (the road-works) before the stopped cars at the lights on the other side of the road. As I pulled up behind the two cars in front of me, I wound down the window and waited for the lights. During the pause between traffic, a huge jet black Leopard lept up onto the dry-stone wall on the left, jumped down onto the road in front of us and in two long bounds had cleared the road, hopped onto the opposing stone wall and off down the slope.

Here kitty kitty...
As I got out of the car, incredulous, I watched amazed, as others got out of thier vehicles to try and catch a glimpse of the cat running into the trees, mouths gawping...

(Yawns) F**k me, it's time to get up!!!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Competition Time Draw!

I was all alone on the plot today,doing some rotorvating...

Poo your pants scary!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Chickeny Things...

One of the joys of having a plot of land, rented or owned, is the ability to keep a few livestock. My own modest little beginnings have been the chickens - my chicken gang, who happily (I hope) live in their 'Chicken Villas' in the orchard I planted a couple of years ago.

This time of year, most of them go off the boil a bit and stop laying eggs, start to molt, and generally need a bit of a tonic to keep 'em perky through the tail end of autumn and through the winter.

Hear No, See No & Speak No...
I've recently found a poultry supplier that offers all the chickeny things I might ever need under one roof and is run by a lady who knows her chickeny stuff. No need to wade through anymore dodgy websites or take my chances on ebay - this place has it all and is very competitive pricewise, which is great with a bloomin' worldwide recesion in full swing. The egg money I get from the sale of a few free-range, organic eggs each week buys a big bag of organic layers pellets and mixed corn for the birds to munch on.

My chickens are spoilt. I clean the coops regularly. They have wood shavings laid deep on each coops floor, and have lovely soft paper shreddings in the nest boxes so they're comfy when laying their golden eggs (I'm still working on getting them to actually lay golden eggs).

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I design and build my own coops, but Jacques and his little harem have a bought coop, from ebay, which has served it's purpose but is in need of a replacement now. Plus it has many design defects making it a haven for red mite etc. I haven't seen any, but I'm not so naive to think they are not about.

This stuff is the business...
So today I've been doing a spot of housekeeping for Jacques and his girls by smoking any nasties out of their house, a better way by far of dealing with poultry pests than using chemical sprays. If you keep chickens and like to keep them happy and healthy, check out the Review Shed and see how it's done.

A pack of these babies is also this months Competition Time prize, so check these pages out and keep your chooks happy!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot !

I've had such a fabulous crop of chilli peppers this year in the greenhouse. The plants are now as tall as the tomatoes (to the glass ceiling, almost) and all of a sudden they have all ripened, a wonderful fiery red. Like an idiot, I've lost the seed packet so I can't remember the variety.

Can you feel the heat yet?
Big problem - what in the hell am I to do with them all? It's like the usual glut issue on the veg plot, mainly with courgettes. I'm not complaining. I'm pleased, really pleased. But I've gotta get rid of them!

So this was my master plan yesterday. A 'get rid of the chillis and courgettes in one go' plan. I acquired a recipe last year for a courgette tea bread (zucchini to you guys across the water) using grated courgettes and chopped walnuts. Only I ate it here, nobody else liked the walnuts. Perhaps because I always refer to them as dried monkey brains.

Anyway, I thought I'd adapt it a bit and add a bit of a 'zing' to the recipe by adding a handful of chilli peppers to the mix... Here's the recipe:

2 oz butter                                        2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of
3 eggs                                             soda
10 oz sugar                                      1 teaspoon baking powder
8fl oz veg / sunflower oil                     1 teaspoon of salt
10 oz plain flour                                 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
4 oz chopped walnuts                        1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
PLUS 5, yes 5 red hot chillis!             2 medium Courgettes - grated !!
                                                         (Zucchini to you Jim)

More tea loaf Vicar?
Line a loaf tin with some greaseproof paper and grease. Then, in a saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. When melted, set it to one side to cool a bit.

Beat the eggs and the oil together with a mixer until it has a nice thick consistancy. Then beat in the sugar, stir in the melted butter and the courgettes and the chopped chillis.

In another bowl, mix all the dried ingredients well and gently fold the dried mix into the wet mixture and then fold in the walnuts.
Pour the lot into the loaf tin and put in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F / GM 4. Should take about 50-60 minutes but check every now and again with a knife through the centre of the loaf to see if it comes out clean. When it does, it's ready!
Now, I like hot food, but maybe I'll reduce the number of chillis. Just a bit...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Bumper Issue!

Click to enlarge and read this tat...

I wonder if I have too much time on my hands sometimes...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Be-Ro Bastardos

I've been a bit moody this week I suppose. A bit glum. A bit 'Victor Meldrew'. In fact a bit of a grumpy old bastard.

What I usually do to pull out of this kind of nose-dive (finances permitting - which they are not) is treat myself to something utterley frivolous and pointless. This time I've decided to lift my spirirts and extricate myself from the dog-house again by baking something tasty. A tasty treat.      (I don't need any more useless items of shit clogging up the already bulging closets).

Just add water...
I inherited my Nana's old Be-Ro cookery book from my Mum some time back. It's a pamphlet really, but is full of the most useful and simple cookery recipes you can find. No fancy ingredients involved. No need to travel on the back of a yak for 1200 miles to find them. No obscure herbs usually only to be found in a Chinese herbalists pants. No. Just honest to goodness things like lard (!!!) and sugar. (I replace the lard and butter with marg you'll be pleased to learn - coronary averted).

Dum dee dee, dee dum...
My Be-Ro book is encrusted with decades of dried-on fruit bits, fat stains, dusted with flour and glistening sugar and is in a generally 'well used' condition. In fact it's so covered in various cookery ingredients, it would probably be a reasonably tasty and nutritious meal in itself.

Anyway, I made some cherry scones...

...and a some jammy coconut madeleines.

Now I'm more at ease. I feel better for that.

If a little stodged. Fat bastardos.

PS. I went for the results yesterday. The tumour was benign! Relief all round here.  
Relieved fat bastardos...

Friday, 9 September 2011

"Jingle Bells"

I should be laid up, flat on my back today. Delightful though it may be, the thought of just gazing through the bedroom window up at the brooding sky all day is making me restless...

Sunny spells and showers - what a cop-out!
I had my 'orchidectomy' on Wednesday, which was a lot of fun, I can tell you.

I regret that I can't post a pic of the offending ball as threatened. It was apparently whipped away for dissecting and further tests and I have no pickled onions I can photograph it it's place!

I now have a new bollock 'fitted' that plays 'Jingle Bells' when it's in use (in use?!) and lights up in the dark, which is handy.

I had asked for 'She'll be Coming Round the Mountain When He Comes' as the tune but, as I'd not gone private, beggars can't be choosers.

I'm going off to gaze at the rain clouds again, now I've had a blog fix...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Last week I managed to grab a few hours by the river and check out that swim I reconnoitered on my last riverside walk.
A few inches further forward and into the abyss...
 It was blowing very gently (towards me, unfortunately) and made gentle ripples on the surface. I was quite sheltered under the overhanging trees. There had been a couple of days of rain before hand so the river was a bit 'coloured', but the fish were easy to spot as they were literally leaping, head and tail, out of the water, and coming down with an almighty "SPLOSHHH" every now and again.

This bit of river drew my attention last week as there's a fallen tree creating a narrow channel between the banks. The water glides slowly just after this obstruction and the fish leisurely loiter just below the surface to prey on whatever passes by them

Like a sushi bar in reverse.

The light's fading - just one more cast, honest...
I'd got thigh waders on. These took me out into the river about a foot before the bottom just dropped off into oblivion right in front of me. Did I fall in? Of course I did! Backwards fortunately so only up to my shoulder in cold water this time as I reached out to steady myself (or this could have been an obituary).

After I'd managed to hone my casting (several lost flies later in the trees behind me) I managed to find a rhythm and catch a fish! Followed by two more. All about the same size (about 1lb - 1.5lb). All nice Brown Trout with the most intense colours, golden brown with black, brown and bright red/rust spots. Beautiful.

Shaky camera with all the excitement.
I never seem to have the heart to kill and eat Brown Trout (certainly not this size). Rainbow's are a different matter as they are stocked for the purpose. These lovely fish went back after a couple of shaky, blurred photos were taken.

Off you go, my plate next time when you're bigger
Looks like the 'Grey Duster' did the trick, although the greedy buggers seemed to eat just about anything I flung at them during the last of the daylight.

I was so caught up enjoying myself I was late putting the chickens to bed. Tut, tut.

More fishin' trips shortly (after my op). Just had some more chicks too! More to follow...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Thursday, 25 August 2011

And the nominations are...

Well, that kind smallholder, goat herder and all round good egg, Crow at http://willowcrow.blogspot.com/ has very nicely and unexpectedly bestowed upon this blog the 'Versatile Blogger Award'. Thank you Crow for that.

This means that I have at least one reader, which thrills me to bits. Even if I do have to pay her to read this stuff ;-)

Anyway, I have to list seven things about myself (groan). Please try and stay awake long enough to get to the next bit which is to list fifteen blogs I'm going to pass this award onto (should they decide to accept) and which are well worth a look.

Seven things

1)  Although I am blond I have a reddish beard (which is now slowly beginning to go grey) Like a bloody rainbow.
2) I can be very cheeky (in a good way) but which has landed me in trouble more than a few times.
3) I love animals and don't much care for people who don't or cause cruelty to them.
4) I'm only really happy when doing something creative. I can't do 'everything' but I enjoy the attempt.
5) I'm an only child which means I can get along by myself fine (provided I get plenty of attention later.)
6) I like a drink but I've had to cut down to almost nothing over the past few years as it was getting to be a bit of a habit, mainly due to...
7) I'm self-employed and have been for over twelve years. Deadlines, chasing invoices, bills, chasing work...somebody get me off this treadmill!

You can wake up now. The following blogs are well worth a look so I've humbly passed on this award to them. Some of them I've stumbled upon by accident and have caught my eye, some I've stalked from comments left on other interesting blogs. It's an eclectic mix. (Apologies if you've already received this and declined or if you're not on the list - all the blogs in my blogroll are a cracking read)

1) The Barefoot Crofter
2) The Garden Roof Coop
3) Magnons Meanderings
4) Tom Stephenson
5) Calling Ravens
6) The River Beat
7) Going Gently
8) Ocean Breezes
9) Laughing Duck Farm
10) Midlife Farm Wife
11) My Tiny Plot
12) The Smallest Smallholding
13) The Tail Out
14) Linda's Bees
15) Welsh Hills Again

I think the idea now is that you do the same if you are on the list and accept -pass it on, listing seven things, linking back to the giver, and awarding another fifteen recently discovered blogs. Otherwise grab a glass of wine and check these out if you haven't already (hic)...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Recon 2 - Grey Duster

Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days, I might have a window soon to hit the river and catch me a Trout!

What I need though, looking at the sparse contents of my dry fly box, is some suitable flies to entice these wily fish. So I've tied a few 'Grey Duster's'. Remember yesterday, walking though the grass as the sun was setting? All those small grey moths coming out of the grass made me think about tying a few of these as a likely means to catch a meal.

Those of you who don't have a clue about fly fishing or fly-tying - read on. Those that do, please excuse my ham-fisted tying attempts! (although they really do catch fish - honest)

Click a pic to enlarge as usual...

Tying flies is actually just as rewarding and relaxing as fishing itself. Many expert fly dressers turn this into an art form. This fly is quite a drab imitation of a drab coloured moth, but some flies are so colourful and so beautiful that they become art objects in their own right.

I've not included a 'rib' here as I want to keep this fly looking as simple as possible (a rib is a thin wire wrapped around in loose turns up the body of the fly to add sparkle and hold the dubbed fur / body material onto the hook shank better - I'll show a ribbed fly on a later post.)

The finished fly. Will it work?

Here fishy, fishy fish...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Recon 1

After a solid week of work and missed deadlines, today was spent trying to clear a foggy head by taking a long walk along the river.

It's been well over a week since I last fell into the water, so I thought it was about time I got my ass wet again and do some fishin'.

Darley Bridge at Darley Dale - There's fish in there (somewhere)
Now, the thing with fishing inland in the UK is that just about every inch of inland lakes, rivers and streams worth fishing are privately owned by 'someone'. Those of you in foreign climbs who trek out to vast wildernesses of unpopulated country and cast a fly or bait into Salmon rich H20 will have no idea how vexing this problem is. Not only do we need a national license to fish freshwater, we also need a permit to fish a particular swim on a particular stretch of water - lake, river, stream, loch - you name it! This can range from a few pounds a day to, well, Prince Charles' income range (more than I can count to).

Faith - does not allow photos without a treat - I had no treats!
I've joined a local association to gain access to some decent local rivers that contain Trout - mainly wild or stocked Brown Trout but also Grayling (a beautiful fish).

I never fish for a species of fish unless I can eat it - just my thing. I've never seen the point in putting fish through all that trauma unless it is for the dinner table. If it's too small, it goes back - simple as that.

Anyway, this bit of the River Derwent in Derbyshire is rather nice and offers much for the fly fisherman, both wild Brown Trout and Grayling in abundance. Just walking alongside the twisting, winding course of the river, I could spot likely swims, areas where the Trout were congregating, deep water pools, fast water riffles, shallow gravel beds and smooth, gin-clear, glides showing clearly the circles of water where the Trout were rising, sipping down tasty passing flies and insects trapped in the water's surface.

Fish loiter behind the obstructing tree in the slower current...
This stretch of the river is new to me. Further down stream, high banks hinder any kind of back-cast which means I'd have to wade, but here some of the trees, bank-side, have been felled.

Another likely slow glide under some trees, large Trout rise to sip passing insects
It's very peaceful here too. Just the occasional passing dog and walker, and I can get to play at being one of the 'Railway Children'...

Peak Rail passes just behind the river
In fact when a train passes by I could imagine I was living in the 1930's (if only...)

Walking back to the car and inspired by some of the large Trout patrolling this beat, the sun started to set. Through the long grass, my footsteps stirred hoardes of tiny white / grey moths, a likely prey item for greedy Trout this time of day. Looks like I'm going to need to tie some 'Grey Duster's...'

...more of that tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


This is my little friend Emmy (Em or Little Em for short?)

She's getting on a bit now, bless her, but the other day I found a lump on her belly! What is it with all these lumps at the moment?

 Anyway, she needed an operation to remove it. A couple of years ago she had a similar lump removed (malignant) so the vets feared the worst again this time. But it came away clean and there were no nasties on the x-rays anywhere else...BANG!...

...while she was under the anesthetic, we had her partially shaved. She's a very, very furry cat usually. She looks big when she's got the fur, but when shaved, she's just the skinniest thing you've ever seen...BASH, BANG!...

To stop her eating her stitches, she's had to wear this funnel which looks like a space helmet. Which she hates...SCRAAATCH, BANG!, SCREEEEETCH...

...Em's not quite managed to gauge distances with it yet. I can hear her now, bashing into the furniture...BANG!...hopefully she'll put up with it 'til the stitches come out next week...RATTLE, RATTLE, BANG!...and makes a full recovery...SCRRAAAAPE, BANG!...

...as long as she doesn't look up when it's raining.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

You say Tomato...

I like to eat a nice fresh tomato every now and again but this time of year there's always a glut of everything (if you've done it right!)

Like the courgette (zucchini) plants, there's fruits aplenty now, so what do you do with 'em all?

Last year I made some of the best ketchup I've ever tasted so I thought I'd share the recipe (such as it is) which can be bastardised any way you like to your own tastes.

Ingredients: (roughly)
4lbs ripe toms
1x large onion (or 12oz shallots)
2x red peppers
small piece of root ginger (or 2 tsp's powder)
80g soft brown sugar
2 tsp's paprika
2 tsp's salt
300ml red wine vinegar (or balsamic)

Click on the pics to enlarge as usual...

That last bit is where you can season to taste. I add a pinch of tumeric, a few cloves and some pepper as well as the paprika, all of which gives it a real kick.

One thing to note though. Make sure it's still slightly runny before you pour into the bottles. It'll thicken up as it cools into a nice thick sauce.

I can't get enough of this stuff and it never lasts 2 months as I've usually eaten it all by then.

Next time I'll post some courgette (zucchini) recipes.