Another project

So, I’ve taken a bit of a break from the house for a minute. This is because we saw a rat in our woodpile. This is… not something that we felt positive about. We’re aware that Oly has a rat…issue. Apparently we’ve arrived at around the time the city has got big enough and dense enough to start supporting a significant rat population. Hence our house’s previous existence as a service station on the rat highway (now subject to a bypass).

We hadn’t seen any rat action under the house since we dried it out down there and also made it so we weren’t pumping warm, moist air into the void (the lack of maintenance from the previous owner extended to the dryer vent just venting under the house). We also blocked off one of the routes in (next to the sewer pipe) with a mixture of rocks and pebbles, which apparently is not a thing they love. There are, however, snap-traps under the house for the purpose of preventing rat-ingress.

So that’s all good. But when we wandered over to the compost pile a while back, we noticed… a rat. Which prompted a rather more urgent building of the chicken coop, for which the wood was being saved. This lumber had been pulled out of the house with the original intention that it’d go back in, but having de-smelled the house we decided we didn’t really want that grotty lumber making up our nice new clean walls – and also, it was quite often split or holed…which made deciding not to use it for that much easier.

Unfortunately, that meant it sat outside under cover for… years.

About 2 and a half of ’em.

Fortunately, it actually doesn’t look terrible, because we were pretty good at keeping it dry. And uncovering it revealed that I think that the rat was just using it to access a hole it’d made; it doesn’t look like they’ve tried to make a nest there.

So I ran out to Hardel and got some 4×4 cedar chunks, some concrete mix, some hardware cloth and some utility grade siding. Annoyingly they only had shiplap, but it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.


That same day I dug out the patch where the coop was going, threw the poles in the ground with some concrete, and buried the hardware cloth.

Then over the last 3 days or so I’ve built a coop – which I’d planned out roughly, but not knowing exactly what wood was there, I didn’t want to be too specific about which lengths of wood I should use. That did, of course, lead to some rather…interesting decisions (some would call them ‘mistakes’) when cutting as I tried to model in 3D the final result. Fortunately, it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.


It does still need a coat of paint, although I’ve thrown some primer down on the inside. Unfortunately, our only ‘spare’ paintbrush is basically a solid lump. It’s sufficient for painting the inside, because I don’t think the chickens are going to be deeply concerned about the quality of paint finish, but won’t work for the outside I don’t think. Pleasingly, we managed to use literally all the trim wood, and nearly all of the 2x4s.

It also needs some locks (the doors are currently screwed closed, which is a short term solution), and a latch for the egg box. Especially since we saw raccoons, I don’t want to find them in our coop.

Oh, and I keep forgetting, but it does also need a roof. That means getting hold of some of the finishing strips for the metal roofing, which is a bit tricky. It also means buying some non-deforming metal shears.

In a little job on the house I put up the plywood in what will be our pantry, which is pleasing. I need to cut some pieces to be the base, and the back; then we can mount our pull out pantry. There is about 2 sq ft of wasted space… but in the entire house, that’s the only area we can’t use… which isn’t too bad since a lot of that space was scattered around in the old layout. Originally I planned to make a custom pull out for this, but the amount of time / reward for it doesn’t seem worth it…


Soon, /so?on/, adverb. Meaning at some vague point in the future.

Wow, it’s been a while since I did a house update. Progress has been slow, in part because of the weather, in part because of [other things going on in the world that are more pressing] and in part because I’m not always super efficient. I know it looks that way, but I’m not.

So, mainly there’s been a lot of work in the garden. I’d like to pretend that the house has been first and foremost on the project list, but it definitely hasn’t. The weather has been alternately vastly too hot to spend ages outside or alternatively, very wet. Neither of these has resulted in a rapid rate of progress, although this morning I finally got back to moving the infinite pile of rocks from our construction driveway and have managed to clear to only a meter or so from the garage (not across the full width, sadly, but a chunk of it).


This may seem like an odd thing to be working on right now, but the cunning part of this plan is that if I can get to a point where Rebecca can move in and out of the garage, albeit with me pushing, then I can actually break out the table saw. Now while I can cut the trim for the house with the circular saw, the table saw will be a hell of a lot easier and quicker. And the damn rocks need to move anyway; I’m fairly much sick of the sight of them. It’s abundantly clear that we’re going to have quite a few rocks left over, so working out what we’re going to do with them is becoming more pressing. We’ve got more beds we can edge with them, so that’s a possibility for some.

Send your thoughts on a postcard to “Kate’s rock dilemma, BBC Bristol, PO Box 111…”

Anyhow, clearing the rocks means that I’m most of the way down the north side of the house with the rock-gap, which should stop our house having any chance to get damp. The underfloor heating I’m sure helps with that, because the point that would be wettest, in the winter, is the joint between the floor and the wall, which has the potential to get sprayed with water when it rains. That is dried out by the heating, anyhow. But, making it so there’s not grass able to hold water right next to the house; and so that the water is more likely to drain quickly should improve that further. Thankfully, the house hasn’t shown a tendency to dampness as of yet, despite the lack of maintenance it had been subjected to. And I think our rainscreen seems to be doing its job pretty well.

To head back to the garden, however… It was progressing well until a deer managed to find its way in. We’d done a pretty good job of preventing ingress/egress of deer, with our 7′ tall monstrosity of a temporary fence, but a while back one managed to get in a gap between our house and our rearward neighbour. We’d not fenced a short section that had the original, only 4′ tall, fence on the basis that we didn’t think deer could get to it anyway being as it’s up by the neighbour’s house. It turns out they can, they did, and they came to eat. Kathryn chased it off that time and we tacked up another section of fence to try and prevent it coming back – which worked for a while.

….until a few days ago when it decided that it would come for the all-you-can-eat-buffet. Eating the tops of our biggest tomatoes, peas, great chunks of beans, all our Aronia berries*, chunks of native plants, an entire squash plant…

IMG_20200620_203742 IMG_20200620_203827

Now this is by far a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but this is also the first year we’ve grown so much from seed, so it was pretty annoying and upsetting. We think it came in through that same section where, it turned out, the short section of fence we’d put up had come down. I’m not sure if it was the deer that pulled the fence down though, because yesterday I got to watch the cute – but slightly worrying – passage of a family of raccoons across that fence.

Watching the smallest one wail and flail its forelegs and the [presumed] parents climb partially back over the fence and haul the small one over was, I’ll admit, terribly cute. But it’s also worrying as we don’t really want a family of raccoons making their home in our garden, or using it for object disassembly practice.

Anyhow, we fixed the fence back up – this time with some more sturdy screws, and sprayed some repells-all around (which is quite the scent), and are hoping that this resolves the problem. Frustratingly, we’d only just pruned the tomatoes extra shoots, so they were already under stress. We’ll have to see if they survive this new onslaught.

We also went to the Urban Farm and Garden place, who were having a handy sale, so we’ve now got a fig tree and a nice bay tree (to replace our failed bay tree), both of which should add to the mixture of shade/light in the garden. At the same time we also picked up a few new deer-off-putting plants. Deer don’t eat rosemary or lavender, apparently (and from our experience), and apparently don’t really like the smell of them. So we’ve planted a few more of them around our corn / tomato / squash bed. It’s all looking rather like our usual organic (chaotic) plantfest, which is quite delightful to me.


Inside, we finally put up the picture rail in our office. This has been one of those jobs we’d been putting off for quite some time – not because it was hard in and of itself, but because it entailed moving lots of things. Again.

We finally sucked it up and did it, and then reassembled the room more tidily than before, and it’s looking pretty good.


We’re still on the lookout for a 3-section barrister’s bookcase to match the 5 section one we have (to make two 4 section bookcases…), but that’s a thing that involves going out in the world in a pre-COVID wanderings way, so that’s not happening right now as I’m still trying to avoid being Typhoid Mary.

I’ve also been working on the trim – it has been slow going partly because I’m doing it in a very weird way (I should really be using the tablesaw but…. can’t get to it), and partly because I’m still struggling with motivation. But, ignoring that, we now have trim around our bedroom – not finished, but it’s present on 3 sides of the door. I just need to do some more measuring, planing and cutting and we could have it on all the other bits. It is tricky, though, because our local dinosaur has hatched its eggs, and is very unkeen on me walking repeatedly to and from the garage. And I don’t want it to leave.


But, like I say, we’ve done some of the trim around the bedroom door, and we’ve also done some around the windows in the lounge/kitchen. Which is definite progress. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I’m not a finish woodworker. The whole point of the chair project was for me to learn the skills of making wood actually join together in a pretty way, not in a purely adequately functional way. So doing this is definitely outside the bounds of my comfort zone. But it looks okay, I’m happy enough with it. And I don’t think anyone else will notice the problems, particularly (except for our woodworking friends).


In the kitchen, we’ve decided to go ahead and try for worksurfaces made from zinc, which should be an interesting challenge to bend to shape without any kind of jig. We’ll see how that goes. I was going to just buy enough for the small one, but the $100 of shipping means it makes more sense to do both as the total is under $600… It will also be the backsplash for the stove, so that’s exciting, too. Planning to order that in the next couple of days.

We are, of course, still debating handles for the kitchen. We found something, conceptually, that we like. But it didn’t come in the shape we wanted. That is a problem, because now we know what we want, but can’t have it. Feh.

*Super disappointing as we were planning to make Sloe gin this year, and we had a really, really good haul of them.

Today is one of those hard days

I’m not sure why. I mean, I could point to a billion things. I could point to the UK government endeavoring to make being trans illegal and life impossible for my many friends over there. I could point to the awful nature of the current administration in the US which is attempting to cause harm to immigrants they have (almost certainly illegally) detained. I could point to the fact that the history of systemic racism and inequality in the US has driven people of colour and their supporters out onto the streets in mass demonstrations which put their lives at risk from CV19 (but their lives are at risk from existing in the US — and many western nations — at the moment anyway). I could wave my hands in the general direction of the awful police brutality and violence being meted out by white supremacist cops and their supporters.

I can look at the news and see that god-awful-weasel of a man that’s currently occupying the White House having peaceful protestors tear-gassed and assaulted so he can do his best Mussolini impression in front of a church.

And this comes on the background awful of climate change and biodiversity loss which I keep wondering if I’m doing anywhere enough for, and knowing I’m not.

All of it makes the jobs I need to do to finish the house feel terribly pointless. And all of the awful is, probably, why I’m feeling pretty crap today. But understanding that doesn’t really help.

What follows you around

So, I keep being struck by something that’s popped into my head as a vague thought now and then. And it’s hard to put into words, and being someone who hauled their worldly possessions across an ocean to settle in a new land – and was not particularly minimal about what she brought, it’s perhaps a quirk of me.

But I’m intrigued by the possessions that are quick-momentary purchase decisions, that end up being with you long term. Various random things bring this up for me, the nightshirts I’ve got which were bought because I was going into hospital back in 2001, and didn’t think my nekkid body wandering the hospital corridors was appropriate (it explicitly reminded you to bring nightwear). I’ve still got several of them – they don’t get a hard life, and so they’ve lasted well… and they weren’t anything special – just C&A’s least froofy ones, I think. But they’re comfy, and so until they disintegrate they’ll stay around.

And there’s the steel bowl that came from the now presumably long gone EuroCo Discount Store in Northfield – on the outskirts of Birmingham. I bought that because I wanted to make dinner with friends, and I didn’t have a mixing bowl when I got to university. It was probably £1, or thereabouts, is stainless steel, and not particularly anything that you’d make a huge effort to keep. It isn’t beautiful, but it is very functional. And it’s followed me since that decision.

The cutlery my mum bought me when I was going to university? Still mostly in service (one of the spoons has gone walkies). Until we got an induction stove, the pan she got me also was in use (I’m loathe to get rid of it, so I’ll get an adapter ring at some point).

The cruft of a lived life.

And I faintly wonder about the things I inherited from my dad. Was the soldering iron something he debated? Or just that he needed a soldering iron and that was the one in the shop. The Eagle multimeter – was that the best one he could afford that he saved up for? Or was it just that it was a convenient kit – I know he always commented that he wished he’d got a mirrored scale version.

What will survive me? What things that I’ve accrued will matter to someone after I’ve gone?

I should not have worn the “Impossible” teeshirt today: computing edition.

So this is going to be about me being pissy after a day of disastrous computing. Feel free to skip it.

A while back I ordered the open vehicle monitoring system. I did this because I would like to control the aircon in our Kia Niro EV without paying $225 per year. Now OVMS cannot currently do that, but I thought I would capture the data OBD data from my car — which has a trial subscription to Kia’s UVO system — when it turns on the Aircon remotely. This…might enable someone cleverer than me to identify how to actually make it work. Or even, it might enable me to identify how to make it work. The easiest way to capture that data is to use the OVMS dongle which is designed to be able to capture data. Unfortunately – in very minor things that COVID has caused, my OVMS unit is stuck in China, somewhere, in a freight unit. And our ‘trial’ of UVO runs out in about 2 weeks.

However, in a moment of clarity I realised that I could* use my existing diagnostic OBD dongle to connect to the car, and log using that. However, I didn’t want to pay for expensive software to replicate what OVMS will be able to do, so it needed to be a cheap-or-free solution.

It started okay.

I had located some free software that could, in theory, talk to an OBD dongle, on linux, and log the data from it for free.

Only slight problem, my Linux laptop didn’t have all the bits installed for it. As is often the case, the more geeky the thing you want to do, the worse the installation and usage instructions are, and the more time you have to spend trying to work out what the author had installed on their system that may — or may not — be necessary to built it, but was included in their build files. And also what was in their head when they wrote the instructions (if they even really exist) to install it.

I finally managed to get all the dependencies installed and it sort of working — insofar as it reported that the dongle isn’t connected — only to realise that my dongle is WiFi not Bluetooth, and so that application wouldn’t work. Then I spent a solid few hours trying to get a different application installed. That had a specific dependency on a deprecated version of an application where I couldn’t find that version. After quite a while I gave up on that application.

Then I thought, well… perhaps a Mac application will talk to the WiFi dongle.

So I got one, and the WiFi section of it doesn’t work.

So while I was sat in the car, I got to argue with the Mac which reports that it has a great connection to our WiFi network, but refuses to do anything. Eventually, I got into a position where I had both WiFi reported and working, and…I got another application, and installed it, and it crashes when it tries to switch to logging.

So then I thought, ha, maybe an Android app will do it.

After much searching and dinking I found that all the apps I can find that have OBD data logging are fucking expensive.

So then I thought, fuck it, I will find the relevant archaic version of this application and install it. Found it. Built it from sourcecode. Installed the fucker. Then found out that the Bluetooth logging app has a bug – only apparent when you get to compiling the application (I mean, it didn’t want to configure, which should have been a warning). That bug means it clashes with newer versions of some part of the OS – and you have to hack up your OS to make it compile properly by futzing with a system variable name. This was getting a bit too far into the territory of potential for breaking the laptop’s OS install – at which point I gave up.

So then I thought… well, I used to have an OBD dongle that was bluetooth – where did it go? And I hunted and hunted, and couldn’t find it. Then I remembered that OBD dongle I got sent heavily discounted because I’d bought a ZUS voltage monitor for my car.

And I got that and put it in the car. And my Android device will connect happily to it.

The mac? Well, it let me enter a PIN and connected, then disconnected, and since then has refused to let me enter a PIN for the dongle, just reporting that the connection failed because the PIN is wrong. Deleting the device did sod all. It just sits in the list and if you press connect, fails.

My Linux laptop (Pinebook) won’t even give me a PIN entry option, despite the manual for bluetoothctl claiming it handles legacy devices that need a PIN. How does it handle them? By not working, it seems.

I thought – hrm – the Linux install on my laptop is a bit old (up to date security patch wise, but not the newest or shiniest kernel). So then I shuffled the cars to put Raven right next to the house (and thus, conveniently close to the room my PC is in). And lo, it appeared on the Bluetooth items list – and… failed to connect.

Because it won’t let me enter a f’king PIN.

And then I gave up.

A whole day of learning – the main point seemingly being – don’t think you’re so fucking clever.

And for an encore I broke a friends WordPress install. Thankfully a fresh install with nothing in it on a VM. But let’s just say I do not feel the most technically competent today.

* Because sometimes I forget how much the world has moved on and I still think I possess more technical competence than I actually do.

Gently moving forwards

So, like I say, I’ve been trying to give myself some grace. I’ve also been trying not to get drenched, and the weather (as is often the case in the PNW) is not entirely predictable. Which is another way of saying it’s been raining quite a lot. Actually, it’s kind of flung itself wildly from rain to boiling hot sun and back to rain. Not ideal weather for working outside. AS I’m looking now, the sky has some light fluffy clouds skittering across a blue sky – and it’s predicted to start raining in about 2 hours.

I could use those two hours to get the mitrebox out, cut a couple of pieces, plane them to fit, and then rush to throw everything away before it starts raining, but I’m trying to be a little patient with myself.

But, that doesn’t mean that we’ve not achieved anything.

The compost is largely moved to the back garden, there’s still somewhat of a pile in the front, but it’s not quite so ridiculous. At some point that needs to come back and move to the big triangular bed in the backgarden. About half of what needs to come back is there. I think there’ll be some extra, but that’s fine, because we’ve got other bits of the garden that will need some that weren’t included in my original calculation. That’s the joy of rounding.

The big thing we’ve done in the back garden is we’ve erected a fence. Up until now, we’ve been fending off deer with individual fences:


But that has been a nightmare for weeding and watering. And it’s not like we’re the most efficient at getting out there (Oh, here come the clouds, btw) and weeding / watering. Doing so when you have to spend 10 challenging minutes unwrapping the flappy sharp bits of wire mesh was… less likely to happen. So we’ ordered some fence poles (turns out you can mail order metal 8′ fence poles) and over the weekend we put up the first run of fence – an ~7ft fence (tallest we could manage, really).

Then today we put up a second run of fence – apparently, deer have terrible depth perception, and really don’t like double fences. Indeed, apparently, you can get away with a 4ft high fence and a second 4ft tall, but canted at 45 degrees fence running parallel, and they’ll go “uh, no”. But we didn’t really want to lose that much garden, and thought our neighbours might not appreciate a fence canted over like a set of spears.

Now, 7ft is apparently a lousy height for a deer fence, because desperate deer will try to jump it, and it’s right on the margins of what they can manage and they’re more likely to fall attempting to clear a 7′ fence and failing (apparently, they’ll pretty much give up at 8′, and our planned proper fence will be 6′ with 2′ of trellis). However, our fence will probably just fall over if they attempt that, so I’m hoping we won’t end up with dead/damaged deer in our garden, and also, we’ve erected our trench defenses second line of fencing alongside our first fence which, while it’s only 2′ or so away will, we’re hoping dissuade them further.


I’m hopeful, but not convinced. When the lockdown lifts (at least for a while) we can hopefully go get some wood posts, and work out where our boundary is with our neighbour, and put up a real fence that’s somewhat more attractive (and also, ideally, doesn’t make a 3m wide strip of our garden look like some middleclass reenactment of the maginot line).

The nice thing about this is that our garden is starting to look more like a garden, and less like a collection of sad fences. Now it’s just the slugs and the moles that we need to deal with.


In interior news, work is progressing slowly on trimming around doors and windows – yesterday I did three of the window’s vertical sections. I now need to cut and wax/oil the horizontals, which needs…weather that’s forecast to be dry for a solid day, really. Something that’s been in short supply this week.

However, my weirdy plane the back off them so we end up with L-shaped pieces seems to be working okay.


Northerly rocks

I have finally made it to the north wall. I’ve not been exactly thrilled to work on the problem of moving the innumerable rocks that were piled on our driveway to make an ‘access area’ for our garage, and there have been more pressing things to do, so the slow progress of digging out around the house, and then filling that space with those rocks, has been somewhat delayed.

But today I set to on the back garden with a rotovator (rototiller). This may seem unrelated, but all will become clear. Since our garden has had very little care since it was turned into a garden 30 years ago (from, possibly, evergreen forest?), we decided that a rotovator was the better part of valour. And having checked reviews for electric ones I succumbed to a petrol one. The electric ones that are easily available seem to be somewhat lighter weight than the rental 5Hp one that I attacked our garden with today.

The plan – which we’ve enacted – it to make two fair size veg beds. We have 3.6cu m of compost to go into them, so today I spent the morning digging them over with the rotorvator. We’ll then throw the compost on top, dig it through the bed we’re going to use straight away, and just leave it covered on the bed that’s for a bit later in the season (or next season).

Anyhow, since bouncing around all over the garden with a poorly controlled petrol engine this morning I’m now knackered.


But the two beds – the main one and the somewhat more shaded one – are both dug. There’s a little bitty one that we’re going to make by the plum tree which needs to be dug by hand.

I have also moved the 3.6 cu m of soil into the back garden – filling the two veg planters, one of which is for tomatoes and the other of which is for… well, currently, beans. Some of the soil found it’s way onto the top of our front garden to try and leach some actual nutrients into the dreadful soil that we got from under the garage. Later in the year, as we’re wrapping up for winter, we may throw more compost and mulch onto it, but honestly, it’s always going to be terribly stoney.


That’s also the case for our second brassica and also chard planter which we filled with soil dug out for the garage foundations. The soil looked pretty stoney when it went in, but not half so bad as it did after the first rains washed the dirt off the stones. So we also threw about 4cm depth of extra soil in there.

But that still leaves the vast pile of rocks which, today, I finally got back to. I actually intend to go back to moving compost tomorrow, but for today I wanted to clear a bit of a path for the compost to come through, so I can wheel it to the two newly created beds a little more easily. So I cleared a section of rock behind one of our parking spaces – which meant that we finally – finally – have made it to the north, and final wall of the house.


I also spent some time pulling out the old drain soakaway pipe (ha) which had turned into a crushed plastic pipe filled with soil over the last 30 years. That’s what you get for not bothering to surround it with mesh. There’s still more to come out but I’m about 2/3rds of the way down the side of the house now. We also need to sort out the drainage from the front of the house which, if I recall correctly, currently drains into a small pile of rocks optimistically positioned about 10 feet from the house.

Oh, you can also see our deck in that picture which is…made of temporary things. Isn’t it… a nice duck-egg blue? All that will be replaced with deckboards and made much more sturdy. We’re also thinking of having planters along the north and south sides of it in which we’ll put some herby plants. Something like the planters we created in Bristol:


There’s still lots to do inside the house, obviously. And I do need to get back to that. But I’m trying to give myself some grace and work on the things that call to me right now. Funnily enough, the trim was actually calling to me this afternoon, but I was so freaking tired from dancing with the rotorvator* that I actually just felt not up to trying to do something that requires accuracy.

* In many respects it’s not that hard, it drags itself along and mainly it’s just application of weight that either stops or allows it to move along, its little peg – ‘drag stake’ apparently is the proper term – digging in to slow it down. This is all very well when you’re trundling through turned over soil, but when you’re trying to persuade the drag stake to dig into the well compacted sod of a lawn, well… it took quite a bit of forceful persuasion. And now my arms are tired.

Not great.

Back in 2005, I wrote this.

It’s not alone. There are lots of entries around my dad’s illness and death where my emotional exhaustion reared up and stomped around. I sure as hell don’t want to lose my mother at this point, but find myself mentally wandering back to that time. Calling on my dad’s essence to help my mother. Every day I’m calling home to check up on her – I can’t go see her because even if I fly over to the UK I will, apparently, be in quarantine for 14 days. By which time the worst will be past, or it will be too late. Obviously, there’s also the significant likelihood of catching COVID in the long trapise through the airport, or the 14 hour flight.

So each day starts with Schrodinger’s phone call. How is she doing? How is the fever? What symptoms today?

All this was avoidable. The UK could have learned from Asia, we could have followed New Zealand. The UK could have closed early, quarantined thoroughly, and managed the illness.

But no, as with the orange moron, Boris went for letting it spread unchecked, making it endemic in society, fucking up to a spectacular degree. Now my mum’s husband has had it, my mum is currently dealing with a high fever and pain. We don’t yet know if it is COVID.

Tests in the UK still take 5 days.

5 days!

What the fuck is going on there? Korea manages 15 minutes.

The conservative party are going to be responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Boris, personally, is responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

He should be in prison for such mismanagement of a national disaster. Government manslaughter. A lethal combination of a lack of science knowledge and a reckless disregard for the people he’s meant to represent.

I’m willing my mother to be okay.

Every fibre in my body wants her to be okay.

Watching the clouds roll by

One of the nice things about this house is the view from the sofa. You can watch the clouds roll past the big fir trees. Perhaps it’s proximity to the coast, perhaps it’s just having spent 3 years in an apartment with a big tree immediately outside the window, but I delight in watching the clouds roll by.

So lockdown continues. My mum’s husband caught COVID, at work most likely, but they can’t be sure. He seems to have recovered, thankfully. Unfortunately, however, my mother now has a fever and pain. As of yesterday there were no respiratory symptoms, but with this disease its course is so random, and it’s impact so unpredictable, all we can do is wait and hope. I’ve been calling every day to chat, and she seems in good spirits.

She’ll know tomorrow whether it definitely is, or possibly isn’t. With a testing accuracy in the 70s, percent wise, a negative test is something that we lack faith in. A couple of negatives? I’d have a bit more faith in.

I’d already been in a fairly introspective mood. It’s been hard to find enormous amounts of motivation. I mean, 3.6 cu. m of soil and a further 3.6 cu. m of manure* compost arriving, I did manage to muster the energy to move the soil back. That’s given us two raised beds – one of which is now sporting 4 beans. The other is reserved for our tomatoes which seem to have somewhat recovered from their leggyness.

Next year, a grow lamp is I think in order for seedlings started inside. While our house feels light to us, it’s probably partly deceptive from the white walls, but I don’t think it’s deceived the plants. The cabbages and the tomatoes were super leggy when they started – for the cabbages I did the bury half the stalk when repotting trick (which we found online). Some of them seem to be doing better. The cabbages are living outside now, which helps.

The tomatoes are just having to work through it for the moment.

The 3.6 cu. m of compost is for non-raised beds which use our actual… and I hesitate to call it this… soil. I mean, I say soil, it’s more a mixture of rubbish, stones and sand on a layer of clay. Hence the 3.6 cu. m of compost. That needs to get moved to the back. The plan is – hire a rotorvator, ruin a big chunk of our ‘lawn’ (dandelion collection), dig in a bunch of compost, and lo, we’ll have… something that might sustain life.

We’ve got a whole bunch of seeds to go in, and plant starts coming, which will all mostly be devoured by the slugs, I’m sure.

But anyhow, for that to happen we need beds. To get beds we need a rotorvator (well, we could dig them by hand, but these are fairly big beds, and a rotorvator would get them done in a day).

So that’s the big project. Other projects that are ongoing remain putting trim up – which I really should be getting on with, but for which I need dry days to cut, do my planing trick, and on the cut ends, re-oil/wax the trim before it goes up. We’ve finally got around to ordering a couple of paint brushes, so we can actually get on with painting the battens which will be going up around the house. They do need to be chamfered along the edge to promote the water running off, but not having the paint brushes to paint them made that feel like a pointless job.

Now we have some paint brushes, I can get that started.

But finding enthusiasm is hard. Politically, the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. I’m watching Britain spiral down, and down, and down. I’m here in the US watching things getting worse and worse. Finding motivation to finish the house is hard, especially when there are so many big jobs waiting to be done for which we don’t have stuff, but what’s left and easily do-able is the small things.

But it’s hard to feel excited about finishing a credenza when thousands of people are dying from a preventable illness. And seeing those idiotic, deeply selfish, re-open morons prancing about with their guns and racism on proud display is just depressing.

In more positive news, I think we’ve finally found a shelving/basket set that will fit our pantry. It won’t be as deep as our pantry is, because no one makes 4’4″ deep pantry shelves (for some foolish reason), but it is at least the right width – and not $1000, which seemed to be the going rate for pantry shelving(!)

We continue on our quest to find kitchen draw handles. We know what we don’t like ;)

And we’re starting to contemplate knocking up some temporary doors for the bathroom and laundry. The doors we ordered won’t be ready until 5 weeks after the lockdown ends, so we’re looking at there being at least 2 more months with no doors, and it looks like the lockdown will semi-end in such a way that we might have visitors who are less inclined to share their bathroom use with us.

We note that neither of our friends who helped us move actually used the bathroom (which lacks a door and a frosted window) when they helped us move… And to be fair, our friends back in the UK did put up a curtain across their bathroom doorway when we visited and they’d not finished their bathroom.

So, that’s another task that really ought to get done.

In other news, what we might call house discoveries, it turns out that a heated floor is less exciting when your house is really well insulated. In the winter it was warm a good chunk of the time (albeit not as warm as I’d imagined, because it’s a shallow depth of concrete/compound, the heat tends to stay fairly localised despite our metal mesh and heat spreading reflectors). But now the spring’s rolled around the house stays so stable temperature wise that most of the time the floor is cool. Which is a little of a disappointment, because it was very nice in the cold.

And in distracted COVID thoughts, we’ve been pretty strict on not going out. Kathryn has to go into her office occasionally, but can maintain distancing. I, obviously, am still going to the emergency department to patch people back up. But outside of that, we’ve paid the extra to have groceries delivered or to do kerbside collection where they drop the groceries in the boot of the car. That, for us, is complex ethically. Because someone else is putting themselves at risk, but then having me out and about in public is probably best avoided, because I could have COVID from work and spread it very effectively before knowing I was sick.

Or vice versa, I could take COVID to work and spread it around without knowing. So we’ve been pretty strict. It’s been frustrating at times though, not being able to get things we want, or when we order things getting them delivered and paying 3 times the price we would normally. Hopefully our steel fence posts will arrive soon, so we can put them up. That will allow us to take down the individual fencing around various beds, which will be nice. It won’t be pretty. But it’s cheap and hopefully it’ll be effective enough.

Our lockdown viewing has been, mainly, This Farming Life, which is a BBC series chronicling the lives of farmers up in Scotland, and latterly, in Northern Ireland. It’s really delighting us… and making us want to move to a croft. Not a hard nudge, on our part, I mean we wanted to have some degree of self-sufficiency and small-holding-y-ness, anyhow. But this is making it more. I’m not sure that’s helpful, but it’s become our go-to evening show (it’s on Britbox for you USians).

Anyhow, time to call my mum.

* Our poor neighbours are getting to enjoy the delicious scent of living next to a farm. In the middle of the city.

Things continue not so much apace

We’ve been working on the house in a kinda of slow way. Some jobs are just – well – they’ve been lacking urgency. We’ve done some work on the garden, planted a whole bunch of things that are, or aren’t, doing well. Our cabbages got super leggy, either because it was too warm, or not light enough. They may need a grow lamp. Our beans may be leggy or not – it’s a bit difficult to tell. We have some Brussel Sprouts, which sprouted but don’t seem that enthusiastic. And we’ve some tomatoes that started but seem to have got…less enthusiastic as time’s progressed.

We’ve ordered some soil, which is for the raised beds hopefully for the tomatoes, if they survive, and a bunch of the other veg. It also turns out we can still rent a rotorvator during the lockdown, so we’re going to, and we’ll be destroying some of our lawn creating some not raised beds. We’ve got a bunch of compost to rotovate in to that too.

Of course, all this relies on the weather behaving.

Monday / Tuesday I spent building a computer – having ordered one mainly to be able to edit video for Transport Evolved. Something I’ve wanted to help with for a while. It’s way more oomphy than anything I’ve built before (in a compared to current specs way, I mean, the last thing I built was about 8 years ago, I think, so obviously it’s more omphy than that)!

Me and elementary OS are still having some discussions about things, and I’ve discovered one of the keys on the keyboard I built doesn’t work, and it also needs a firmware update…which the supplied software only runs on windows… so uh, err. It’s a little more complex than I’d expected. It is a fracking nice keyboard though.

Yesterday I planned to do a bit more on the house, but the weather disagreed, supplying rain all day. Rain stops play, as they say.

So I edited video. First video I’ve edited for years. It’s currently in the queue with Nikki to see if it’s terrible. Hopefully not.

That’s it, really. Lockdown makes life… smaller. Which is odd, because we hardly went out before.