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.

Bits, bobs and interior froof.

We’re continuing to try and work towards a more finished home, although it turns out that the stay-at-home order allows only for “essential” building work, nothing more. Obviously, that isn’t a problem for stuff we have in stock already. We can entertain ourselves as much as we like with the stuff we’ve got stored. It’s more of a problem for stuff we don’t have already – we aren’t allowed to order things like “deck boards”… Which makes some things we’d planned a little more tricky.

So. That being said we’ve continued with various other things that we have in stock, and some stuff we can mail-order, which is allowable. Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of jobs where I have managed to get half of the stuff required for any particular job. For example, I thought I had a router bit in that would suit my complex plan to make the trim for the windows and doors*, but I don’t. So although I have some trim oiled and ready to go, I don’t have the relevant tools to make it fit. Thankfully that’s at least small enough that when I’ve got around to checking what size bits our router takes, I can order it online.

But, that being said, we’ve still got several things done.

The gates for the south of the house, between the garage and the house, are built and up and functional.


You can really see the missing exterior trim on that picture, because we adjusted for the unsquareness of (most likely) the house and/or the panels in one big step that will be covered by trim boards. Irritatingly, I was two-boards short for my planned design, and obviously, I can’t get those until… May… at the earliest. Hence the half-arsed chunk that stops the gate flapping past the other gate, and the missing section on the left-hand gate at the bottom.

We also made the bookshelves for the sections above the door in the office and the bedroom. These were birch rather than beech, which we’ve decided was an error, but they’re well out of the way and will probably be so full as to be barely visible, so we’ve decided to ignore that problem.


And so it’s turning out, actually. Some decisions we made we’re not 100% convinced about. For example, our wall lights we have concluded are somewhat higher than we would ideally like (unfixable), and actually, we’re not convinced they go with the shades/height of the ceiling lights (fixable).

We have finally got the wall lights up, and it looks like we’ve managed to overcome the inch-and-a-bit drop in the floor towards the centre of the house with Kathryn’s clever concept.


The middle piece (the one with the large off-centre hole) allows us to adjust the position of the outer piece on the wall to provide a consistent space between the picture-rail and the light…


Which has allowed us to cover for the unsquareness. And actually, we’re really pleased with how they have come out – especially considering how cheap the lights were. We’re thinking though, that a simple white glass shade would actually work better than the industrial/enamel shades. Also something higher up. The enamel shades were chosen to tie the two ends of the room together, but it feels a bit of a clash between industrial and a sort of modern-trad look. Too busy.


Sometimes you try something and it doesn’t work. The thing to remember in that situation is that you’re learning (not always easy to remember).

I’ve also moved the media server to the attic, which is pleasing. Less pleasing is the fact that I can’t find the 10-pack of Ethernet connectors, so I’m left with things hanging out of the wall. Bleh.


And I’ve been doing a little bit of tidying in the garden. I’ve mainly been just doing maintenance (strimming, mowing, weeding). But I’ve also slowly been filling in the trench with the pipe that carries water to the soak-away. That allows us to clear what will be the only veg bed that we’re planning to put in the ground (with a little bit of raising so we can put some decent topsoil on it). That will have to be prepared fairly soon because we’ve got some cabbages and tomatoes that will need to go out when it gets warm enough.

* Unfortunately, our walls, because of our non-standard wall coating, are not a standard thickness. Which means that we will need to make some L-shaped trim which will allow… oh, look, this would be easier with a diagram:

Diagram of trim / wall structure.
The lime plaster here is shown way too thick (as is the L-ness), it’s usually less than 1/8″…

This is also true on the windows which ended somewhat recessed. Now the alternative is to get more expensive, thicker wood to replace the existing trim, plane it down (or run it through the thicknesser), and similarly, for the door jambs, buy a wider piece and shave it down with a plane to the right width, but that is upsetting because it’s (a) much more expensive, (b) wastes the existing wood trim which we paid for, (c) would end up with us having to saw/plane off nearly 1/2″ of wood, and (d) would be almost equally hard to get right.

More wood, more plants, just more.

So, the stay-at-home / shelter-in-place / passive-aggressive-stop-going-the-fuck-out order is now in place. People were asked nicely to not congregate and to keep space to avoid spreading COVID-19, and in the PNW some did, some didn’t.

Thanks to the some-didn’t, we’re now under a more aggressive, but still less than many Asian countries approach of ‘stop spreading this shit’ by requiring people to stay at home. Of course, unlike much of Europe the US has effectively no social safety net*. Now there are some rather hastily created worker protections appearing, dragging the US’s social system into something less awful. But of course, idiot boy wants to end social distancing because the economy is tanking.

The fact that ending social distancing will lead to a mass-casualty-catastrophe, to the US probably being forcibly isolated by most of the rest of the world, and to the economy in the US tanking all the same as half the work force go off sick with COVID-19, the other half hiding because they don’t want to get it, so they won’t be out buying anything doesn’t seem to factor in. But that would involve thinking, something which our current president seems pretty keen to avoid.

Having an sociopathic idiot racist in charge of the US when there wasn’t a massive crisis (other than the ones he generated) seemed bad enough, but having someone who doesn’t understand primary school mathematics trying to understand exponential growth and complex things like “flattening the curve”. Fuck. All we can do is try and protect ourselves and hope that there’s no easy way for Mango Mussolini to override our state’s stay-at-home order. It’s weird to be on the left and championing state’s rights!

Anyhow, Kathryn is now at home working, which is the major change. And I’m trying to get stuff delivered rather than me rocking up to home depot. Interestingly, the lumber processor who’s making our trim wood is considered an essential service, so they’re still open. So we’ll be getting some trim delivered next week. Which should mean that we can start trimming the doorways to the bedrooms and a few other places. We’ve also ordered (some of) our (interior) doors. They’re special order, though, so we’re looking at over a month until they’re delivered.

Which is handy because we’ll have to run down to Oregon to get them.

On Friday I knocked up a credenza**, or perhaps a media stand. The theory with this was that it could be cut from a single sheet of plywood, which it clearly can, because that’s what I did. The more complex bit of the theory was that I could prototype it, then if we liked it we could send off the design to Edensaw, or some other CNC mill place, they could cut it from nicer ply, and we could have a nicer version.


Unfortunately, my design calls for square cut outs, which are easy to do on a CNC cutter, and more tricky to do in the back garden without digging out the files. I hoped to get away with it, but the wedges don’t fit well enough, so the solution we came up with was to order some dowels. Which… will be here eventually.

….until then, we’ve propped up the media stand with the media that will one day occupy it.


Ironically, our house is finally getting near to a point where we’d be willing to have guests visit…

Annyhow. We have also been putting up picture rails, slowly, so have pictures hanging. Which is not the quickest process, but definitely is rewarding and makes it feel even more home-y.

We’ve also been working on installing our kitchen task lighting. They’re both in now and have actually been much more used than I expected. Not just when prepping food in the evenings, but also in the mornings, they cast a much softer light which is very pleasant and much more managable to wake up to.


We’re still working on our lounge wall lights. The laser cutter has definitely made it much more easily feasible for us to ‘print’ the bits we need, but I want to make a couple of minor tweaks to the design before the final print run for them all.

And, yesterday we finally cut the wood for our built in bookshelves that live in the bedrooms and sneakily steal some attic space. One of them is glued and assembled, and just needs a little sanding off of some excess glue, an application of some oilwax and then when it’s dry it can go in. The other one is all cut and ready to assemble, but it got late, and today it’s rained all day. Assembling that is definitely an outside-or-garage job, and since the garage remains packed to the gunnels with stuff, it’s an outside job.


It mayn’t look like much, but it’s exciting to finally see the attic spaces becoming closed off from the rest of the house. Currently they’re just closed off with boxes. I’m also happy because we took the time to run some channels for glass in there, so we should be able to drop some sliding glass doors in, which should keep the dust out.

Today I put the door jamb in on our office, which means all the big door jambs are done, and also having done the main attic one, that means that the only jamb I can currently attack is the small attic one. All the others have to wait for the doors to be in.


We have the wood for both attic doors, and on my shopping list for delivery are the hinges for them, and the magnets so they can close. So… it continues to progress, despite the weather not being in our favour for outside stuff.

Oh, but! Outside.

We have filled one of the raised beds I knocked up last week, and put a bunch of starts in there. The other bed is still…uh, somewhat less soily than might be ideal. It’s always cool to know that we’re growing stuff we’ll eat.


We’ve also ordered some more seeds for things that we’d not got around to ordering yet, and popped some tomato and cabbage seeds in to get them going :)

* This reveals a staggering lack of knowledge, but I’ve no idea how most Asian countries handle their social safety net.

** Despite having no servants to taste our food and confirm a lack of poisons for us.

I wrote a thing for facebook

I often try and stay off facebook, and I definitely stay away from talking about health topics, but I know some people I’m friends with (particularly on here) will trust that the US president will give them good advice on managing the current crisis. For your protection: He won’t.

He’s concerned about numbers. The numbers are starting to look bad. Not the number of deaths, or the numbers in hospital. We’re not at the point where those things are near as bad as they will be yet. No, for him, it’s worrying that the economic numbers are bad ( And we know from history that bad economic numbers are bad for re-election. That worries him, and I think it honestly worries him more than the numbers of people who experts say will become sick or die because of inaction. It’s likely he’s going to say “meh” to social distancing soon ( Why should you ignore that and try your best to keep social distancing? Why am I going to be standing at least 3, and ideally 6 feet away from all of y’all?

First, a bit of a rant, feel free to skip on down. But I feel this is important to understand why we’re in the situation we’re in.

Back in 2012 and 2015 (yes, under Obama), there were warnings that a pandemic was an increasing risk in the globalised modern world. Obama, in response to criticisms of the Ebola response, created the Pandemic Response Team (

Then in 2016 – Trump’s transition team was briefed on the probability of a pandemic and that the US was underprepared for it:

Handily, at that point, the US had a pandemic response team – so there could be planning around how to manage a pandemic and a unified response to it. The US no longer has a pandemic response team, instead we have Mike Pence, who’s record on managing public health risks is terrible (, What happened to the pandemic response team? Trump and his team disbanded it. He may claim now that he knows nothing about it, but despite his protestations, he himself sung the praises of dissolving the pandemic response team back in 2018. He may not remember, but video does: That means that we’re without the people who would have spent years prepping for this and who could give us a carefully planned response.

Okay, so – we (the US) knew it was likely to happen, then we got rid of the people who could have told us what to do.

But that was all in the past, people keep saying to me that he’s doing a good job now.

Well… no.

As international concern grew, as it became clear from China and Europe that this would be a major pandemic. Instead of leaping into action, Trump wasted precious weeks on claiming it wasn’t a problem ( At the same time, both GOP members of congress as well as a Democrat (no one’s hands are clean here), having access to briefings about how bad it was going to be, decided to sell their shares ( You know it’s bad when the well off start moving money out of markets.

Then the government in the US decided that everyone else’s testing kits weren’t good enough and decided to develop their own ( Which is why we don’t have enough kits to test everyone, and it takes days to get a test resulted here, and in South Korea they’ve just developed a 10 minute test.

Why should we be testing everyone? Surely we only need to know for sick people?

For me, as a healthcare provider, dealing with an individual patient, yes, that’s broadly true. I need to know whether Bob, who’s sick and coughing, has COVID-19, because I need to protect other patients, and I need to protect myself to avoid catching or spreading it to my other patients. And the precautions I’ll take are different for different diseases. Of course, because the testing in the US takes days to come back, I won’t know until long after Bob has gone to the ward, or ICU, or has gone home and I’ve been at work for days more.

But, while it matters even in the healthcare environment that we test others – because this disease has a median incubation period of 5 days (but up to 11.5 commonly, and over 14 is a possibility: so I will have worked my full set of shifts, and may even have come back to work a week later, and still not know I’m sick. 

It matters much more in general, because in the US, there are very strict criteria for who can be tested for COVID-19 ( so we’re missing a lot of cases ( We can’t identify hotspots, and isolate those people. We can’t look for patterns to try to control it. Instead we’re stumbling blindly and effectively having to try and isolate everyone. 

In Iceland and South Korea, they’ve basically been testing everyone and their dog. ( And what they’ve found is that there are massive numbers of people with little to no symptoms who are not just carrying the disease, but are spreading it ( So, in the absence of testing, distancing for everyone is the safest response. 

This disease is way more infectious than flu. Every person with flu infects roughly 1.4 people; every person with COVID-19 infects roughly 3 people. Doesn’t sound like much, right? But humans are curiously bad at maths and stats. So…

Other countries didn’t get as much time or warning about this. We squandered the time we could have been training temporary technicians to at least help manage ventilated patients, and we could have helped nurses, techs and doctors who don’t regularly manage ventilators update their skills and knowledge. We lost the time we could have got factories churning out basic cheap ventilators, PPE, and could have had lots of time with social distancing to slow the impact.

We have two tools left in our armory. Hand washing / good hygiene practices and…. Social distancing.

Why does that help?

I know it’s tough, as an introvert who lives with a wonderful partner, I’m lucky. I like spending all my time with Kathryn. Many people aren’t so lucky. Some are in the hell of living with abusive partners, some have mental health challenges that will make this time especially hard, and for many it’s just tough. 

I can’t offer a great deal for that other than my sympathy, but the advice in this show was pretty good.

But it’s important. And with any luck it’s going to feel like it’s not worthwhile. Dr Landon explained this the best I’ve seen:

And now I’m going to go back to my regularly scheduled silence because I think facebook is the spawn of satan, interspersed with the odd photo of our house to keep friends updated on the fact that we still do a hell of a lot of DIY.

PS: If you’ve hoarded N-95s, please donate your N-95’s to your local hospital / EMS service so we don’t end up doing this:

PPS: If you’ve hoarded toilet paper:

Learning Opportunities II

When we put up the picture rail yesterday, we discovered that… the middle of our hourse is about an inch lower than the edge of the house. We knew there was a slope issue, particularly around the front door, but how bad it really was… well that keeps being incrementally revealed to us.

We know this now because the newly erected picture rail runs dead level, which means that the lights that sit below it are… well, at different heights. Because they were measured off the floor.

While they’re both approximately 7′ from the floor*, they differ in height from the picture rail by over an inch.

Which is a problem.

Kathryn has thought of a solution – since we’re replacing the backer on the lights anyhow, but it makes me glad that I didn’t get further with making the replacement backers for the lights and fixing them to the wall.

* Within about half an inch, which is about the tolerance on the flappy plastic light outlets we used. Irritatingly, they get pushed by the drywall as you’re putting the drywall up. So when you’re making the hole for them in the sheet of drywall that’s where they sit forever. But because they’re just held by two small clamps on a long strip of metal that big heavy chunk of drywall can make the metal bar and the clips flex somewhat.

Learning opportunities


So, my whinyness about fault finding notwithstanding, I set to on trying to fix the kitchen lights. I found the circuit diagram and checked the switch I suspected might be wired incorrectly. It was, and would have meant that the switch didn’t function as expected, but it wasn’t causing the problem. Then I ended up pulling out the switches from all the multiway switches that power the kitchen lights. Each of those checked out okay.

I gave in to paranoia and switched the breaker with one of the other breakers… that didn’t seem to be it.

That evening I finally got up on the ladder and we took the cover off one of the kitchen lights, I remade the neutral connection while I was up there. And then the fault was finally revealed.

The lights above the hall are yet to be installed…

…and while I was up on the ladder I remembered that they were on the same circuit as the kitchen lights.

…and I checked with my best beloved who agreed that yes, they were on the same circuit…

…and there, above the hall was the problem. Juussst touching, the neutral and the US-pretend-ground-wire-that’s-actually-neutral.

How this ended up with a 0.5v voltage with the light switch off, and still reporting an infinite resistance, I don’t know. But it did. And separating the two ends and capping them off fixed it.

I must admit I felt quite silly.


In other news, our large greywater tank is now attached to a tap, and both sides of the guttering drain into it, which is pleasing. I also took the opportunity to cut the holly back to the ground, nasty invasive that it is. I’d hoped to dig it up with the minidigger when we had it, but failed to get that far.


That is 1000litres, potentially, of rainwater capture. So that should be good come the summer, and is nice now as we start planting.

I spent most of last week oil/wax-ing wood which will be door jambs, and I’ve spent much of the past few weeks gently chasing the guy who’s meant to be giving us a quote for doors. I’ve also been using our new lasercutter to chop up bits of wood – I’ve made some backer/spacers for the lights for the lounge wall, and we’ve made some backers for the kitchen and reading nook task lighting. Those have also been oil/waxed, so should be good to go up tomorrow.

COVID-19 / SARS-nCoV or not, I’ve got to go and get our prescriptions tomorrow. We’re also running out of toilet paper – because we did not indulge in panic buying. So… ideally, I would like to find a pack of that. I also, because of work, would quite like to grab a couple of sets of scrubs and some extra sweaters which can be hot-washed to death as I’m trying to wash my uniforms as soon as I get home now.