Monday, 31 July 2006


We've been taking the inside of the packing case out to make a chicken house today. It's been quite hard work, involving lots of swearing, finding odd bits of stuff to lever other bits of stuff; and gratuitous hammering at things whilst holding them down with our feet:

Me [wielding crowbar and micro-adjuster* ]: B*gg*r! B*st*rd! B*ll*cks! Come out, you bloody thing!
B [wielding chisel and thoughtful expression]: This is reminding me of putting together a Stan's Cafe show. It's giving me the yips. I think I'll go and put the kettle on.

* Large claw hammer

Saturday, 29 July 2006

two other important things

Two other things:

1. Kate is doing a blogathon RIGHT NOW in aid of Medecins Sans Frontiers. She has to post every thirty minutes and at the time of writing has another thirty six posts to go - that's eighteen hours more that she has to be awake to post. Go visit and help to keep her awake if you have time.

2. Jesse at Flogging Jesse, is a new blogger. Again, if you have time, I am sure he would appreciate you dropping by to say 'hi'!.

One stir fry and two glasses of wine and RAIN make for a good evening ...

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parsley, the great escape and marmalade

One they made earlierWe have bought a packing case to convert in to a poultry house.

We went to collect it this morning from near Shrewsbury.

It just about went in the back of the estate - it's 5ft * .2ft * 2.5ft high. When converted, I think it will take five full-sized hens or ten bantams - big hens should have two square feet of floor room per bird and bantams should have one. Mediums sizes, obviously, somewhere in-between.

With the number over where the door will be, it looks like a little chicken barracks.

It was only £20; if we wanted them to convert it for us, it would have been £135. It seems so reasonable that I am considering accelerating my plans for Chicken World Domination and going back for half a dozen more.

One they made earlierI have a mental image of them all lined up on the lawn like the huts in The Great Escape, with a little motorbike for Steve McQueen Chicken off to one side and Donald Pleasence Chicken tottering around after the rest of the flock, enunciating in a clipped British accent "Please take me with you! I can see perfectly!" before ricochetting off the side of the pen and plummetting down the bank and in to the lane.

Potentially, I need to get out more.

Anyway. Moving on.

Yesterday we re-vamped the larder, adding shelves. Previously, it was a large empty cupboard full of dessicated spiders. Now it is much more useful, because we can actually put things inside it.

We also made Sweet Orange Marmalade as an experiment, which seems to have turned out very well.

And Ma sent us a letter which contained runner bean seeds, parsley seeds, an article about David Cameron and his wind turbine, an article on Noel Edmonds and Cosmic Ordering; and a note saying:

'Daily Mail articles probably rubbish. Put seeds in now in greenhouse and should get a crop off them. Pig waiting in freezer for you. Is chasing tail. Has only three [illegible illegible illegible]'.

It's tea-time. I am going to have marmalade on toast and narrow down my Chicken Wish List.

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Thursday, 27 July 2006


Due to popular demand, I have been doing some research about our Shrew And Vole Influx.

The BBC has rather a good wildlife site, with comparative facts and pictures about Voles, Shrews and Mice, which should hopefully straighten things out.

Last night we shut the cats out of the bedroom and came downstairs to find two shrews and something with thought might be a vole, but which on examination of the BBC webpage we think was probably a mouse. If it was a vole it was a young one, because it wasn't very big.

They were all lined up in a row at the foot of the stairs in an articulate 'See us demonstrate our love for you by bringing you small dead mammals, even if you won't let us sleep on the bed any more because we bring live shrews up and drop them on your pillow at 4.30AM' arrangement.

I felt no guilt.

For further analysis, apply to Jamie, who apparently has a master's degree involving, if not actually in, Shrew Identification.

Tomorrow: No shrews. I promise.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006


The greenhouse is up.

I repeat, ladies and gentlemen, the greenhouse is up.

We are shattered, our support team of Kate and Vic are shattered, we haven't got the glass in the roof yet and we need to buy a handful more bolts; but essentially it is a solid structure, that is recognisable as a greenhouse.

B and I can chip away at it over the next few days and get it finished pretty easily I think.

In other news: todays shrew count - three dead, one alive and one unpleasantly inbetween.


webfusion rocks


I have bought a separate hosting package for each account. One for .net site and one for the site. Eventually, we'll use the .net site as a password protected site with crew information and similar on it.

The new host is WebFusion. There was a slight hitch with my order being queued on their system and they were really, really brilliant. Helpful, polite, a real person to speak to.

And then, this morning, they guided me through setting up my customer contact form so that it works properly.

I will definitely go with them for hosting in the future - they couldn't have been more accommodating.

So after that brief bit of good news, I go to continue with the Greenhouse Struggle. Please send cold drinks, ice-cream and WD40.

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Monday, 24 July 2006

touch of the lash

It is official.

I am a Numpty, Grade 1, Gold Starred.

We have sent out all this marketing material, all this hard work, with the new website address on it - which actually forwards on to the old web host, but substitutes the new address in the address bar.

And what did I do? Or NOT, do, actually?

I didn't check the EFFING thing worked in EFFING IE.

If you will pardon my language.

It forwards beautifully in Firefox. But in IE, it seems to duplicate itself so the page is overlaid again and again upon itself.

All these new clients will have been looking at the beautiful new website - which I have destruction-tested in both Firefox and IE and which renders perfectly at pretty much all resolutions - and to those who use IE, it will look startlingly unprofessional and amateur, all because, actually, I AM startling unprofessional and amateur.


B's Mum and Dad are coming down for a couple of days to help us put us the greenhouse.


Excuse me, I am going to spend the evening sorting out some additional web hosting; and then getting drunk.

Saturday, 22 July 2006

bee gone

I am, almost-but-not-quite, cold enough to put a sweater on.

It's a relief.

Bad Things have been happening because of the heat.

The house has filled up with big, fat, buzzy flies.

This is partly because the apricot wine had a fermentation surge and when I came downstairs the other morning it was foaming all over the kitchen floor like something from Quatermass and the Pit. It is also because of a deceased shrew that I missed in the little room at the end of the house that B calls the Snug and I keep calling the Study. The flies liked both of those; oh yes they did.

I have washed the kitchen floor three times but it still makes that horrible student-floor 'stuchk-stuchk' noise when you walk on it.

B is on his way home from Newark, cross-country.

I have found someone who is selling Pekin Bantams relatively locally. And I am reading up about keeping bees.

Oh, and I've updated a website for a mate of mine. So not an unproductive day, all things considered.

The trouble with having those box-type wine dispensers is that you can't really keep track of how much wine you have actually dispensed.

Friday, 21 July 2006

two other things

1. I agree with Steg about the latest version of co-comment
2. There is a shrew under my piano

That is all.

moose of cthulhu

mooseLast Sunday B and I took a break from the frenzied unpacking and chutney-making, to light a wedding at a Stately Home near Manchester *. It is an absolutely beautiful venue for that kind of thing, both for the clients and for us - easy to get in, easy to get out, really pleasant staff, with nice trees to sit under if you can make the time for a break.

The service was an Asian one and there was a beautiful row of pillars and a dias to light. We also lit around the perimeter of the room with lights on the floor, focusing the light up the walls behind the curtains which were pulled around almost-floor to almost-ceiling.

They are there to hide the huge number of shooting trophies mounted around the walls.

Apparently the chap who owned the place in the thirties spent pretty much all of his time travelling the world shooting things and bringing their heads back to hang in his house.

As it is, it would definitely not be the most ambient atmosphere for weddings and suchlike - so the curtains are pulled across to hide them when necessary. It works really well and I am sure that most of the guests had no idea they were there.

However - our control desk was between the curtains and the walls. And when I looked up, this was my view. B said that it reminded him of the Banana Splits.

And once I'd done my first focus of the lights around the edges of the room, throwing the light on to the curtains and the ceiling, I realised that the shapes of the animals were projecting all sorts of wierd and wonderful shadows on to the ceiling. It looked really impressive, but we decided that although it was suitable for The Wedding of Cthulhu perhaps we should re-do it so they weren't so obvious.

It's cooler today. I may do some more unpacking. Or I might just sit here and look at the view. It's a difficult choice.

* Points, but no prizes for anyone who guesses where it is ...

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Thursday, 20 July 2006

apricot wine and 'experimental chutney type #1'

This will make five gallons of apricot wine and about fifteen pounds of chutney (UK measurements)

  1. Buy three kilos of organic dried apricots at an extortionate price, justifying it to yourself that the thirty bottles of wine they will make will more than pay for them
  2. Place apricots in pan with two gallons of cold water and soak overnight
  3. Bring to boil, simmer for five or so minutes
  4. Allow to cool a bit, then strain the juice in to your five gallon, food-grade, bucket
  5. Add another two gallons of water, stir about a bit, then repeat boiling/simmering/straining bit
  6. Absentmindedly reserve solids in jam pan
  7. Top the juice up to five gallons, add six kilos of sugar, wait for it to cool and add depectiniser and ten teaspoons of citric acid
  8. Leave twenty-four hours for depectiniser to work, then add yeast and yeast nutrient to start wine off
  9. Go to the pub for three hours and drink enough cider to slightly impair your judgement on a hot afternoon
  10. On returning home, decide that you cannot bear to throw out such expensive apricots
  11. Decide to make chutney from them
  12. Add to jam pan, half a kilo of currants, three or four chopped onions and a few tablespoons of whatever spices take your fancy. I think we used chilli and coriander, but it is fair to say that I am not entirely sure
  13. Chuck in a bit of water and simmer for a couple of hours until it's going sludgy
  14. Add a bottle of nice vinegar, to just cover your sludge (NOT malt - we used 750ml of cider vinegar, but white wine would also do it. Apparently malt makes it yakky) and half a pound of sugar
  15. Simmer until it is the consitency of chutney - you'll have to start stirring it at some point, because it'll stick otherwise
  16. Look for jars
  17. Remember you threw most of the jars away before you moved
  18. Clean and heat the five jars you can find and put the chutney in them - screw caps are the way to go, but if they are metal, make sure they have been coated, because otherwise the vinegar does Bad Things to them and they do Bad Things to the chutney in return
  19. Shove chutney in jars and leave for three months
  20. Shove rest of chutney in freezer, with intent to reboil and pot when have collected jam jars
Somewhat surprisingly, it tastes rather nice.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

pictures then ...

I took some pictures of the garden and views last night.

I have set them up as a flickr 'set' - mouseover for a description and click on each one for the flickr page with more info and to leave a comment on a particular picture. I'm still experimenting with flickr so any hints and tips much appreicated :).

I am going to make a 'cottage garden' on that patch of gravel outside the back door - it was previously lawn, and it had rather badly laid membrane beneath the gravel. It's just begging to be taken up and have stuff planted.

At the moment, we sit on the bench outside the back door and nurse a glass of wine and watch the world go by - up and down the lane, doing their cardiovascular work-out, as one neighbour put it.

Up in the top part of the garden is going to be the business end - the greenhouse (which you can just see, leaning against the shed) and a couple of vegetable plots. We are also researching the idea of fruit trees and soft fruit bushes.

I think it's a bit cooler here today - there's a nice breeze blowing.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2006

here and now

It is nearly dark outside.

It is very quiet.

I am sat with the front door open and only the glow of the screen - it's spoiling my night-sight and so I think it's actually lighter out there than it looks.

Our adoption worker rang this morning to book our next assessment session.

Simpkin is asleep on the sofa beside me, making small cat-snurfling noises.

The fermenting wine is plopping away gently to itself in the kitchen.

It is cool.

It is peaceful.

B has gone away for a few nights for work. But he will be back.

The faint scent of geraniums from outside the open kitchen door and lavender from the windowsill is filling the room.

I have just realised that inside myself, I am happy.

Monday, 17 July 2006


Since last post:

  • Dead shrews removed from pillow at midnight when returning home from work exhaused - 1
  • Mouse heads discovered in smear of blood on spare room carpet - 1
  • Life shrews captured in pint glasses and returned to wild - 2
  • Live shrews behind kitchen cabinets - 1
It's becoming tedious now. And we have started shutting the bedroom door.

Broadband is back. Yay! I am still slightly enveloped in boxes though ...

Saturday, 15 July 2006

cider, shrews and a greenhouse

  • Small local towns that have organic veg shops visited: 3
  • Village pubs visited and landlords chatted to: 1
  • Vicars spoken to whilst on their evening walk: 1
  • Live shrews rescued from living room and released in to the wild: 2
  • Dead shrews disposed of by chucking out of bedroom window: 1
  • Mysterious squeaking noises in bedroom during night ignored: 1
  • Assumed shrew livers found on bedside rug and disposed of: 1
  • Gallons of apricot wine placed in fermenting vat: 5

Boy - I have plans for the garden. Watch this space :).

Lisa - our back boiler seems to be actually up the chimney, which I think is unusual - as Kate said, they are normally behind the fire. Apparently being up the chimney means that it is more efficient, because it is catching the heat that normally disappears upwards. Have a look at these guys. Ours is a boiler over an open fire and has just been disconnected from it's water pipes, which stick up folornly in to the airing cupboard above. The boiler is cracked because a fire has been lit in the grate without any water in it; which is only an issue if one ever wants to use it as part of the central heating system again. We are thinking of replacing it with a similar, open-fire-and-boiler system - Dunsely still make the exact type - which is not so efficient as a multi-fuel stove, but which will be less expensive to put in, although less efficient to run.

It is three thirty in the afternoon and I have had a pint and a half of cider. I am going to wait until I sober up a bit and then move greenhouse panels around so that R's kids don't lacerate themselves when they come to visit on Monday. At the moment they are laid out all over the garden.

As you have probably noticed, we are still having fun ...

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Wednesday, 12 July 2006

cyber country-and-western

Thank you for the flea-advice. I think we are going with the 'count how much money we have after the wierd first-slug (unfortunate word - they are HUGE) mortgage payments come out and they buy new ones if we possibly can' approach. *shudders and scratches*.

Apologies for not commenting, or indeed, reading anyone else's blog at the moment; I will be back in the cyberworld-proper next week I think ... when the boxes have disappeared :).

HOWEVER, good news!

The engineer came today and climbed the telephone pole opposite the house, declined a cup of tea and then phoned me from the exchange to tell me that in a couple of days, we should have a 2M broadband connection. Yay!

Also, I have met the Post Delivery Lady and had a conversation with the Bin Men. They were apparently running a bit late today, because they went a different route, just for a bit of a change. Bin Men in our old area could barely walk and talk at the same time, and if they could didn't really want to engage with you; presumably because they were all fed up with handling used needles and things; so it made my day. It's the simple things in life ... .

Yesterday we discovered that our open fire had a back-boiler. I found a leaflet from Dunsley Heating Appliances and did a little research. And then I phoned the incredibly helpful people at Dunsley, who recommended that I go away and fill it with water to see if it leaked - because if they have a fire lit underneath them when they're empty, it warps the plates.

We put four gallons of water in before it started to trickle out.


And today, the Removal Guys did a final run out from Wallasey with my plant pots, which filled the entire floor of their luton van - and then they went with B to collect the greenhouse that the vendor we bought this house from wanted to get rid of from her new house. Score!

I go to drink a glass of wine sat on the bench outside, and watch the buzzards.

Monday, 10 July 2006

dial-up smells of wet alsation

To answer everyone's comments/questions/taunts seperately would make this a very long post, so here is a short version .... :).

Thank you to everyone for all the good wishes. We really appreciate them - particularly because we woke up this morning to the beautiful quiet and a lack of screaming police sirens, turned to each other and said more or less in unison "My God! What have we done? ...." :).

Rhys / Steg - yes, there is broadband. I *think* it is 2M. At least, that's what we are paying for, as that is what our old contract was. I will be having words if it isn't. I think the last few days might have illustrated that I have the beginnings of an internet addiction; I've been missing it quite badly ...

Carol / Jamie / Singaporegrrl
- No pictures yet - too traumatic to attempt to load them up. But I have taken some and they are ready and waiting.

Milt / Peasant / Steg
- the shelves are straight. Unfortunately, the walls aren't and it looks a bit peculiar.

We have been to explore Oswestry today and have come back with a cat-flap. B is fitting it as I type and I should go and help him.

In other news: the alsation had fleas. The carpets are *disgusting* and I am actually covered in bites. Tea-tree oil spray may not be enough ... .

I go to hold screws ...

Saturday, 8 July 2006

here i am

We're in.

Kate and Vic have just left; they've been stars and have generally packed/unpacked, thrown things away and provided nourishment at regular intervals.

The house smells faintly of damp alsation; but the cats seem to be quite settled.

I'm on a dial-up - it's a bit of a come-down from my usual 2M broadband, which won't be reconnected for another week. Hence everthing is rather slow and I don't think I'll be doing much with the internet until it's re-installed. I will take some photos in the meantime, to upload when I'm back on.

Must go and put up more shelves ....

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

space fillers, but still important

I am up to my neck in boxes and slightly disturbed cats.

Two interesting things to read:

1. Justin at Chicken Yoghurt on Tony Blair's message to British Muslims

2. Greenpeace on how the soya being grown to feed the world's chickens is contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon

More soon ...

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

it's a successful blogmeet if you don't end up dead

We had a lovely weekend in Somerset, not least because we spent yesterday afternoon at The Witchery, with the foolishly hospitable Kitchen Witch and SheWeevil.

It was rated a success by all; even SheWeevil, who was first nearly beheaded by the lawnmower B and I had in the back of the car when we braked suddenly on the journey between the bus station and The Witchery. And then by getting KW's Trick Chair, which humourously collapsed around her.

There were no axes in sight, although there was a large mallet, which is part of the door-closing apparatus at The Witchery. Do not annoy this woman, you might not live to tell the tale ...

Blogging is going to be a bit thin on the ground this week, due to the packing frenzy. Bear with me.

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