Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Philippa’s Project List

So for those of you that know Philippa, she is an exceptionally well organised individual. You could even say she even has a touch of the OCD’s. (I say this without fear of reprisal knowing that her favourite job would be working in a library cataloguing books).Those of you who know me, know that I’m not very organised, and will get round to stuff at some point. Without Philippa’s love of lists however, I’m sure we would drift along here and not get half of the things done that we have. Philippa’s to-do list is an ever morphing creature, which one day can be replicated on the back of a stamp. The next day you would need a ream of that old style dot matrix printer paper that goes on forever. I have learned how to handle this beast recently, and I have come to the decision that if I wait long enough, the list will naturally evolve, with some of the more undesirable jobs disappearing altogether. This technique can only last for so long, and eventually I can identify the jobs that Philippa definitely wants doing from the jobs which were entered following a sudden rush of enthusiasm following reading some article, or seeing someone's comparable business.

One job she has been elbowing me about for over 6 months now is to build a mini jetty at our pond, so guests can do some pond dipping without getting their feet wet. Today was the day when I finally got round to it.

About two months ago I managed to acquire a few lengths of old board walk. The original plan was to build a bridge across the pond, but that scheme died a death immediately as I found that the maximum working wellington boot distance from the bank was 12 inches. So I reverted back to the mini jetty idea

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Philippa practicing her forward twist dive with two and a half pike from the 0.5 metre board.

With this job complete however, I am aware that the beast that is rebuilding the clay oven looms ever larger, and I fear that I have no defence from that particular task!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Resolutions of a (Nearly) 40 Something

It’s 2012. It’s the year in which I hurtle inexorably downhill towards the conclusion of my 40th year on planet earth. No more frolicking in the garden of the House of 40, nor tip toeing down the path, my foot is firmly on the doorstep, the delaying tactic of pretending to fumble in my bag for the front door key is fooling no one any more. Thankfully there’s a bunch of friends already in the front room plumping the cushions & getting the drinks in ready for my arrival. Some of them (who shall remain nameless) are already in the kitchen heading for the back door and then it’s over the fence into the garden of the House of 50!

Anyway, on the assumption that it is indeed possible to teach an old dog new tricks, my first “(Nearly) 40 Something Resolution” for 2012 is to learn Welsh. I should come clean and confess that the very same resolution also made the list in 2010 and 2011. The Teach Yourself Welsh CD-Rom has been languishing on the self, next to the dusty Welsh dictionary, for some time. Teaching ourselves at home was not a success. I should have known that introducing “homework” would dampen Dave’s enthusiasm pretty sharpish. Flying solo got me through the alphabet, a few place names, some comedy verbs and some token greetings. Not so impressive for 2 years work. So I’m going for hardcore, full on, no turning back, learn ‘til you bleed classes – Beginners Fast Track – 5 hours every Wednesday for 20 weeks. Learning doesn’t get tougher than this…

Warming to my theme of it’s never too late for self-improvement, I have taken to heart the breaking news that scientists believe “mental dexterity and brain power deteriorate earlier than thought”, and memory loss “can begin from age 45”. Personally, I struggle to remember when I started to lose mental dexterity, it may have been that time in the 1970’s when my best friend cut the fringe of my hair down to the roots… or was it that time I was offered a bowl of cornflakes with Jack Daniels instead of milk …. or perhaps the Bros concert .. so many possibilities. What was I saying? Oh yes, maximising self-improvement before hitting the age of 45 … let me introduce you to the 3B resolutions…


Well let’s be honest, I could hardly be a worse one, but if I can go into my third season of beekeeping with three colonies and come out of my third season with three colonies, a few jars of honey, no tears and no panic phone calls, it will be an improvement. To be able to say, hand on heart, that I truly am a better beekeeper these are the goals I must achieve in 2012: (1) find an unmarked queen; (2) mark a queen; (3) not kill a queen while finding her, marking her or generally doing anything at all with a hive; (4) do a successful artificial swarm; (4) pass the Welsh Beekeeping Association Basic Exam (in English - I suspect that Fast Track or not, trying to combine learning Welsh with Being a Better Beekeeper might just end in a soap opera style punch up except it’ll be in an apiary instead of a pub).


I’ve seen the programmes, I’ve read the books, I’ve got the kit, but it seems what I’m missing is the knack. My white bread is passable, my wholemeal edible, my bullet buns legendary, but the fluffy muffin eludes me and I’m pretty sure that the perfect loaf is a mythical beast whose existence is perpetuated by cruel hearted so called “celebrity” bakers just keep their viewing figures up. I know there are ordinary people out there who can bake, I’ve seen their blogs, I weep with envy at images of their crusty farmhouse loaves and their warm and buttery breakfast rolls. I’m not asking for the world, I just want to share in their joy of dough and bake a loaf worthy of praise just a few notches up the laudatory scale from “well at least it’s better than your last loaf”. Oh yes, and I’d also like to make a ciabatta with real airholes instead of finger poke holes, a Victoria sandwich without crunchy edges and rolls that won’t take down a passing bison with a single blow to the head.


This is a tricky one, with goals as hard to define as sheep are hard to catch. There have been some improvements in my shepherding skills since losing my sheep on day one - I can now identify each one by sight, but I can’t say we’ve bonded in any way, which I guess is fair enough when as far as they’re concerned 50% of the time my arrival in the field leads to chasing, tipping, clipping & sticking with a needle. What I really want to achieve is a sense of ownership, of connection, of feeling like I’m just a little bit relevant to their lives. I’m not expecting them to gambol across the field bleating my name lovingly as I open the gate, or to roll over for a fleecy tummy rub, but it would be nice if it felt less like having three malevolent squatters in my field who, whilst presently content simply to humiliate me on a regular basis, are ultimately plotting my downfall. In practical terms, the goal is to get to the end of year with none of them dying and all three of them in lamb, but I’ll be grateful if come the midnight chimes of Big Ben and the singing of Auld Lang Syne, I’m not face down in the field shelter with nibbled ears and hoof prints on my back.