Sunday, 26 March 2023

Wood splitting

You might have seen ads for these tapered drills, promoted for splitting wood for the fire.   I bought some, and yesterday I had occasion to split some oak logs that were a bit too big for the stove.  So I decided to try them out.

I got out my big SDS drill (about 1kW I think), fitted the bit and set to work on the oak log.  I stood on the log to steady it.  (It seems that this is what they do in the ads.)    The bit sank into the the wood, buried itself to about half its depth, at which point the log was still unsplit and the force needed to turn the bit was now greater than I could apply to the drill.  The drill forced its way out of my hands and whacked my arm. 

Now, faced with a jammed bit and an unsplit log,  I decide to withdraw the bit from the log to try again.   With the drill in reverse, I stand on the log, but this time it's the log that frees itself rather than the drill, and it rotated through half a circle and whacked my foot.

So I'm hopping about, cursing the world in general, but it's not until a while later that I decide to inspect the damage.   Corker of a bruise, eh?   I don't think I will be using those log-splitting bits again.  Not on oak, anyway.   Back to the axe.

Monday, 20 March 2023

Powers of observation

I made the mistake of adding some nice crumbly compost from the compost heap, to commercial potting compost, before planting seeds in it.   Now we play "spot the tomato".

P.S. I found 7 so far.   Tomato seedlings can be indentified by their reddish stems that are covered in tiny hairs.

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Early Spring

The Winter has been mild so far.   We've had a few overnight air frosts, but no ground frosts as far as I'm aware.   The plants are very foreward in their development; the Hazel is going nuts.   I always think it's a shame that the flowers of the Christmas Roses droop; you have to lift them up a little to see their true colours.

The Winter-flowering Honeysuckle is covered in its small fragrant flowers, and the bees are already harvesting from it.   The Garrya elliptica is covered in tassels.

So it looks like Spring is here, in mid-February.   I'm just hoping that a short sharp frost isn't going to chop everything off at the knees.

If the weather forecast holds, I expect I'll put the first potatoes in about mid-March, covering them with a tarpaulin if an air frost is predicted.

Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Cat bed

It's well known that cats can sleep almost anywhere.   Apparently my accordeon bag is ideal.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Peas on earth

I decided to try growing some peas this year.   I have found that planting such seeds as mice enjoy (peas, broad beans, etc) tends to result in them being eaten before they get a chance to germinate.  For peas in this situation, I read that the thing to do is to plant them in guttering, let them germinate under cover, and then slide the resulting plants off the guttering and into their place on the veg patch, a bit later on.

I never managed to find bog-standard, half-round, plastic guttering in France.   Perhaps it exists but I never found it.   However, I was given a couple of lengths complete with end caps, a few days ago.  Cool.

I drilled some holes in the plastic for drainage.   I'm hoping it's not a crime to inflict GBH on innocent building materials.   I fitted the end caps, and filled it with compost, a mix of shop-bought potting compost and sieved soil from the compost heap.   Then planted the peas.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023


When I first started work as a "thick sandwich student", at the grand salary of £13.50 a week, I decided that I would expand my almost non-existent music collection; every week I would buy a record.   And so it was, that every week I would go to Smith's and buy a record, and most weeks I would take last week's back to change it because it had turned out to be scratched, crackly or bowl-shaped.

I gave up on classical records because the quiet bits often sounded like someone was frying chips in the background, and when, some years later, I got wind of the fact that a new digital medium, the Compact Disk, was going to be launched, I stopped buying records altogether and waited.

I bought the first commercially available player, the Sony CDP 101.  It sounded pretty bad, (it only had one DAC so the central instruments appeared in the right-hand channel momentarily before centering), but my hifi wasn't up to spelling this out, and hey, I could listen to classical music without getting an unexpected yen for chips.  To celebrate, I bought a CD of Stravinski.

Once you have a CD (or record for that matter), the question arises of what to do with it once you have digested its contents.  The obvious answer is to store it since it will always be available to listen to again, if and when the urge arises.  And so, over the years I have slowly built a collection.  

The arrival of MP3, FLAC and other music encoding trechniques means that music can now be stored on computer-compatible media, and so I recorded my CDs into FLAC format.   About 6 a day unless I really couldn't face it.   I started by doing them as MP3s but when I was about half-way through my collection, FLAC arrived, and that was better, being lossless, so I did them all again.  Took me a couple of years, but now all my CDs are in digital format, backed up every which way to Sunday.

My portable FLAC player takes two micro-SD cards, one terrabyte each (maybe it supports cards of up to two terrabytes, I'm not sure).   One such chip is holding all of my CDs.

I still have a CD player and I like to browse the CD rack from time to time.  It's a different experience from looking them up on the Media Monkey software, although that comes a very close second.   I use a streaming service too so I don't buy as many CDs as I used to; mostly second-hand ones cheap at car boot sales, but at least I own them and if one day the streaming services shut down, I will still have what I think are the best tunes.  And if I really like them on the streaming service, I buy either the CD or a hi-resolution download.

Monday, 13 February 2023

Thermal inertia

We had a frost last night, and it's interesting to see that it didn't freeze the ground nearest to the stone wall.   This would be due in part to the thermal intertia of the wall itself, and in part by the fact that it is backed by a solid bank of earth that will also retain some heat.

This is relevant for me, since I am looking for somewhere to plant a fig tree that is growing from a cutting.  I haven't had a lot of success with fig tree cuttings; they either die before they root or I manage to kill them if they grow.   Last year's failure was one I planted in front of a different wall, that died of thirst in the hot Summer.   Perhaps if I put the next one here beside the veg patch where I will see it, I will remember to water it.

Here is the lone surviving fig tree cutting just starting to leaf out after Winter hibernation.   I'll plant it outside at the end of May when the frosts will be over.

In my defense I do have a fruiting fig tree that I grew from a cutting.   It gave a decent crop last year, as long as I got to the figs before the wasps found them.

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