Queen of the Highway

So, having put a tow-hitch on Raven, the time came to test it out because despite this rather… unfortunate note:

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It turned out that when I called, the person who placed our order was in fact able to find it. Which mean that…. our doors were ready. So we rented a trailer and I flew down to Portland for a socially distant collection. I have to say Raven handled the whole trailer experience very well.

We then got down to the delightful job of oiling the doors – with our smelly despite being low VOC, 100% plant based, biodegradable oil. The doors looked pretty spiffy outside:

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And even more spiffy when we put them on their runners inside:

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There’s still a lot of trim work to do, obviously. The doors currently have a block of two bits of trim to make up for the fact that the trim at the left side is missing and so is the trim at the right. But our bathroom for the first time in 3 years has a door. Still no window, but a door.

The second bathroom is actually closed off from the main bedroom, and our laundry room is shut! It’s fascinating to me how different the house feels (again), with these additions. The bathroom being a room – not a space only separated by walls but with big openings in – well… it’s much cozier. The door at the end of the main room is the most impactful though, for me. It – interestingly – both manages to make the end of the room feel much more solid – and sort of shortens the room, but at the same time makes it (somewhat deceptively) feel like there’s a proper room the other side (rather than, as there actually is, just a laundry cupboard).

As I’ve wittered about at length, I find it a perpetually intriguing thing how small changes to our space have really big impacts (for me, at least), on the way the space feels.

One think I’m really looking forward to (hopefully this week) is the impact that the teal/green tiles will have when we put them up as the back splash for the kitchen counters.

In exterior news; the south end now has the mid-wall trim piece covering the join between the roof truss covering panels and the wall panels. We have, today, planed a whole bunch of strips which we’ll have to cut down to make the trim for the south wall – then paint and put up. That same process has worked pretty well on other faces, so we’ve managed to get the front of the house more-or-less done:

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Today has actually been a crazily busy day. We did our market shopping (currently, with COVID-19 we’re going every other week, with only one of us going in, and grabbing fairly much fruit and a few other bits and bobs). Trying to support local business while at the same time avoiding making others sick with potential work-related-plague, or alternatively making us sick and carrying it from wherever we’ve caught it to my — or Kathryn’s — work makes for a kind of difficult balance.

Anyhow, we then hung all three doors when we got home, then planed wood, and then harvested an insane amount of food. I can’t express how lucky we are, how privileged we are to have both the time and money to grow our own food. It’s been really exciting this year – and at times overwhelming – to see our garden (into which we have put a lot of both compost and effort) being incredibly productive.

And while it’s quite a time-suck (because we don’t just need to do at least some maintenance, a lot of watering, and try and keep on top of the insects; we also have to do something with all the food we’ve grown) – it has led to us eating incredibly well this year.

This year we’ve actually had enough Tomatoes that we can both eat and prep them. So tonight, while it’s getting terrifingly late, we are waiting for the toms to cool down having been cut up:

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…and roasted with garlic and herbs so we can make a roasted tomato sauce.

From our own, home grown tomatoes (grown from seeds we saved).

It’s, to coin a phrase, fuckin’ A.

And now… I must away to deal with roasted tomatoes.

Investment in food

I find it odd how my decision about whether a food is edible includes consideration of its source. So for food from the shops my level of “it’s inedible” is different from the level for stuff we’ve grown ourselves. For example, if we had an apple and I thought I was 95% certain there was a pest in it, specifically an apple boring maggot, then from the shop it would almost certainly go in the (compost) bin. But for apples I’ve plucked from the tree we’ve grown, no. No, then it’s trim all the bits off that are edible, then chuck the remainder in the compost bin.

It’s the same with the potatoes.

Particularly for our heritage variety purple potates which similarly are not particularly resistant to some sort of boring creature. Even when only a tiny amount is edible, I’ll hack the potato to bits to save a tiny, tiny bit of our home grown food.

I find it conceptually interesting, because in reality wasting our home grown food is less damaging to the environment than chucking away a mass-farmed item, because we don’t use pesticides or agro-chemical fertilisers. We try and do ‘crop rotation’ to some degree.

So really it should be the other way around.

But it really isn’t.

Best laid plans of mice and Kate

So, I’m off on an ALS (Advanced Life Support) course in June. In my usual efficient, non-prevaricatory way I’ve left doing the online portion of the course…a while. I’d vaguely noted that it said that the learning management system would be offline for maintenance for a couple of days but hadn’t really taken much notice of when, exactly. Until today. When my plan for the day which went:

– Paint
– Dink on the net
– Go out for nice lunch
– Return and do ALS precourse
– Drink tea, eat biscuits
– End

Fell over somewhat.

I managed the painting; another coat of lovely red paint on the lovely trim. I’m now all the way around the upstairs door frames, which means after one more coat on that frame all that’s left is the trim that I can only prep and paint when Kathryn’s home (because it involves being ‘quite high up’ on a ladder at a slightly dubious angle) and the trim next to the stairs. I’ve even painted the loft-entrance.

Oh, and patching up the paint on the wall which, as usual, does not seem to have stuck as well as I’d like despite the endless attempts to persuade it to (with plaster-prepping pre-paint stuff, dilute coats, and sensible long drying times). I’m never quite sure how other people get paint to stick to plaster (or if they really do), because while the vast majority of it seems to end up pretty well attached, if I ever put masking tape on paint (which it says you can) it always ends up pulling stuff off. Anyhow. Despite the low-tack masking tape, there were a couple of small areas where the paint’s been pulled off the wall. Some of that is fillered areas, and some of it is just that it hasn’t stuck at all to the plaster. I’ve got some paint from the batch that I kept ready for such an emergency, so I’ll clean the wall up, probably filler it to get it close to the level of the multiple coats of paint and re-prep it and then repaint those little bits.

The red really adds definition to the upstairs. Or at least, Kathryn and I think it does. Everyone else might hate it. But we really like it.

Then I set to on the Sepsis cards for work. I’d thought I was happy with the design, but looking at them today I just wasn’t. So I spent some more time modifying the layout before sending them off to the printer. I tweaked it so I could abuse business cards into being the sepsis cards. You can all tell me how much you hate them, but I’m quite pleased with them – in so far as they at least look different to some of the other cards we get at work:

Sepsis front Unbranded

Sepsis back

It’s still not really to the standard I’d like, and the font isn’t quite what I was after, but given I’m not paid to do this, this is my own time, and my own money, then… well. They get what I pay for. The blue is meant to sort of tie it in to the NHS blue, without explicitly stating that. :)

Anyhow, then I sent them off to be printed. All pray, I did online proofing, rather than taking it to the local Staples, because Staples didn’t seem to want to share their online pricing for printing full-colour double sided business cards. I may get back 100 awful, hideous, unreadable cards. But they looked fine in the preview.

Anyhow, that done, I did my dinking on the net. Bought myself a network cable and socket tester (and it came with a free crimping tool, which is handy as I’m thinking of extending the cabled network down to the garage*). Anyhow, the excitement of that is I might be able to isolate what’s wrong with the kitchen network point and then I can fix it if I’ve wired it wrong in some way or get a new socket depending. I’m thinking it’s probably a socket because it’s definitely worked at least a bit before. Either that, or something’s eaten the cable, which would make me sad.

Anyhow, that done I set to on the next problem which was going out for a nice lunch. Easy. Headed over to Hart’s Bakery…only it was rammed. There were no seats at the tables, so I ended up grabbing it and coming home which made me a little sad. I was looking forward to getting some nice coffee and chilling out in a space other than the house.

Still, when I got home I still enjoyed the delicious bread, and then attempted to log on to the learning management system. And there it was. LMS unavailable until the 29th. ‘Bother’, I think is the word I was looking for.

On the plus side, after some vacillating about how to spend my newly available afternoon, I headed out to the garden and moved the rest of the soil from the front garden to the back. Distressingly, the new pseudo raised bed astonishingly still requires more soil. I suspected as much, that I might have built a bed that required more soil than we have, but the fact we’ve put around 700 kilos of soil into the back garden (plus about 800kilos of gravel) and we’re still short is a little scary. I keep thinking that the amount of compost, manure, gravel, sand and plain old soil we’ve put in, and the fact that the excavated soil from the garage also went in should really have raised the garden up several feet. But it hasn’t.

Anyhow, the soil moved, but distressingly inadequately filling the bed meant that I couldn’t do what I’d planned to do, which was put the veg / plants out that’re sat on the windowsill waiting for a new home. We shall have to pick up some more soil to complete the bed :(

That having slightly failed I set to on another project, which is a mixture of creating a new bed further down the garden, and stripping the last remnants of the lawn off – and moving them to the tiny bit of garden that will hopefully become lawn. It’s right down by the garage and we’ll probably turn it into more of a meadowy affair, but at the moment it’s a mixture of cat-shit and weeds. Oh, and it turns out, potatoes. I yanked a mixture of potatoes and weeds out. Buried the cat-shit a bit, and then started skimming off the grass from the soon-to-be-bed and putting onto the soon-to-be-lawn. Uneven and lumpy though it is, it is a fairly effective (and cheap) solution (although we’ll have to put lots of raked topsoil and grass/wild meadow seed on to it to make it level enough). But it does make that patch look better, and it did so pretty rapidly. Still lots more to do there, though.

But whilst I was doing it I slightly surprised myself by stumbling on what was perhaps once the edge of a border. It’s a little hard to tell; there’s just a line of bricks running across the garden – edge up – so I’m assuming it’s not a wall – although I’ll need to dig them out anyhow so I will soon find out. It’s quite near to the area of random, inexplicable concrete that was dug up when we started on the garden. I have no idea if it relates to that in some way, or was simply the edging of perhaps a war-time veg bed. It was sufficiently far under the mud that the grass looked quite happy, and I’d no idea that the bricks were there until I hit them.

So anyway, that was pretty positive. Then it started raining, so I’ve taken shelter inside again….

* Which leads to the exciting debate: Do I do it properly with armoured direct-bury cable, or do I find some spare old hose-pipe and run the cheap, nasty, horrid (alleged) cat5 cable I’ve got inside that. I’m largely inclined toward the latter, considering I’ve got bloody miles of the craptastic cable, and I’m not going to take it to the US, nor am I willing to inflict it on anyone else because I’m highly unconvinced of it’s actual twisted-pair-ness.

A lack of indoor commitment isn’t necessarily a bad thing

It’s a Bank Holiday here in the UK. At least, it is as I write this. This means I could have been being paid in vast lorries filled full of money had I taken it upon myself to do a shift. Thankfully, my phone stayed silent today because otherwise I’d’ve felt very bad about not making myself available for a shift. However, making myself available would have entailed the horror of hiring a car; because Rebecca’s MOT was a bit of a failure. The rear brake cylinders seized when I changed the brake shoes (probably as I forced them back to a point they’ve not had to go back to for a long time). Attempting to un-seize them was unsuccessful – and in the name of time, she’s gone to the garage to have them replace both of ’em.

Frustrating because I’m currently trying to source a new rear Escort rear axle which will replace the whole troublesome object along with the brakes. So spending money fixing the brakes I’ve got is, well, not ideal.

Anyhow, so I had the day to kick around at home, and rather than do painting (which I probably should be doing) I instead built a new planter. I made it from scrap chunks of floorboard from the house and a pallet (plus a couple of random offcuts from making the decking). It took me from 11am until about 5pm; including the time to fill the base with gravel and then fill the planter itself with earth:

A lack of commitment indoors has lead to a new planter outdoors :)

Unfortunately, having completed it I realised that what I should have done was made it about 60 cm shorter so that I could leave a gap between it and the other one, and you could have had a little path between them. That would’ve been nice. Err, but I didn’t. And it’s now full of soil. So that’s not going to happen.

I’m not sure how long it’ll last, because the floorboards were already pretty rotten before I started, and the screws I had kicking around were just marginally shorter* than I’d like. It was pretty flimsy putting it together, but once all the panels were screwed together it did that suddenly fairly stiff thing. Which is good.

Then I more or less hurled the plants from the kitchen in to it. We’ve singularly failed to harden them out properly, but they were getting desperate to be planted out, the soil becoming one giant mass of roots… so I just plunked them optimistically in the planter. The next lot of plants we’ll go back to egg-boxes full of soil; they work better at keeping the plants separate. Still, our neighbour stopped to comment on how nice it was looking, so that was nice.

Anyhow, then in an exceptional demonstration of restraint (which probably explains why after I did it I ended up spending £35 on a new laptop battery for my laptop**) I did not then come into the house and start sanding the door-frames. I won’t pretend I wasn’t tempted, but I’m trying to be better about not working until I drop, because it has been pointed out to me that it’s not entirely healthy to do that. All the time.

So instead I swept off the deck, made myself a cup of tea, fired up the chiminea and relaxed.

Yup. This was a good plan.

Y’know what, it was bloody brilliant.

I sat, I dinked on the net (courtesy of our new wifi extender. Yay), I drank my tea and I fed the fire.

I smell of woodsmoke, but I feel damn good about the day.

Then we came in and made the most incredible potato salad from ‘Plenty’, and now I’m listening to the fantastic Smoke Fairies album that Kathryn got me (along with their gig) for my birthday (we’ve also listened to another excellent album this evening – by Lyla Foy). I am, quite honestly, having a very pleasant day.

* Or longer, so I went with shorter because I don’t like the idea of cutting my hand every time I plant something.
** Although that might also be related to the fact my laptop battery has a reported capacity of around 2000mAh which is less than half its design capacity and that varies quite a bit; leading to the state of charge plummeting lead-balloon like when it’s unplugged. From full to empty in ~45 minutes.