Archive for April, 2009

See pics here!

The small green blob in the middle is the bramble patch. We’ve cleared about a quarter of it for our plot, about 25’x30′.

Currently there’s a waiting list of several years for an allotment here. The only reason we got permission to use this land is because Francis bugged the Council until they let us have it; they’d given up using it for allotments. There’s no water on-site (yet) and the fence is flimsy and it’s near a drunken teenager-laden park, but we’re hoping that with the interest our plot has inspired, we might get the council to put up a fence and get some water spigots up. In the meantime, we pass water over my in-laws’ fence if we need it.

Here are Francis’s pictures from about a year ago, the true “before” picture.

Here are things that we have already planted:
– Desiree potatoes
– Shetland Black potatoes (heirloom)
– broad beans
– peas
– sugar snap peas
– Brussels sprouts
– Savoy cabbage
– garlic
– onions
– leeks
– beets
– rainbow chard
– lettuce
– salad mix of greens
– carrots
– green onions
– pink poppies
– California poppies
– lilac pompom poppies
– nasturtiums
– dahlias
– freesias
– sunflowers

(All but the freesias and sunflowers have come up, and we expect those any minute!)

Here are things that we have started indoors:
– two heirloom tomato types
– eggplant (here they call it aubergine)
– cauliflower
– broccoli
– cucumbers
– yellow bell peppers
– cayenne peppers
– lobelia

Here are things that we will be starting indoors soon:
– marigolds
– cosmos
– Iceland mix poppies
– nicotiana

Here are the rest of the things we will be planting later:
– thyme
– tarragon
– oregano
– basil
– sage
– mint
– cilantro
– marjoram
– dill
– chives
– parsley
– corn
– green beans
– Italian climbing beans
– salsify
– parsnips
– zucchini (a.k.a. courgette)
– butternut squash
– some sort of dark orange squash
– sweet alissum
– sweet peas
– wild flower mix
– browallia
– straw flowers
– amaranthus
– violas

I cannot WAIT to see what things look like in three months!


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I’ve just spent the last five or so hours finally getting all my pics up on Flickr! Whew.

There are some going all the way back to September, when I visited Portland and Albuquerque. There are some new ones added to the Tunbridge Wells set, including pictures of the big blizzard of ought-nine. There are also new ones in the England & London set, of Trafalgar Square and the like.

But most exciting (at least, for me) is the allotment! I know it doesn’t look like much yet, but we’ve put in a ton of work and we’re feeling quite happy with how things are so far. I have some other photos to add, mostly things that Francis has taken with his i-Phone, including a good “before” shot, and me working a piece of heavy machinery.

There’s also a new set on food, but that’s not really doing much yet, and mostly those shots are for fleshing out Nom Nom Nom, my food blog.

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Fourteen year-old Ben Underwoodtaught is a blind person who uses echo location to see his world. He can ride a bike, accurately shoot a basketball into a hoop, and walk down the street avoiding barriers and curbs. It gets better. He can locate a small, vertical, cylindrical rod when placed on a table. He can estimate the size of a box of tissue solely by making clicks at it.

He’s got a lot to learn, and some limitations (including a teenager’s attitude about taking help when he needs it), but is truly astounding. I think he owes a tremendous to his mother, Aquanetta. She brought tears to my eyes when I heard her describe how she told newly-blind three year-old Ben: “Baby, you can see! You can’t use your eyes any more, but you can see with your hands, your nose, your ears! Feel my face, can you see me?”

I couldn’t find a complete video of the documentary made on him, but I encourage you to watch each video on this link. (You even get to see the blind leading the blind, literally.)

Absolutely amazing and beautiful.

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This article from New Scientist magazine is utterly intriguing. Fun stuff to think about.

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Quiet as a mouse

Just now I went into the bathroom at work for a wee.  It’s a big bathroom, and usually busy, but there was only one other person in there.  And she was very, very quiet.

I was sitting there, waiting for my bladder to do its thing, when my nether regions produced a rather curious noise.

It was the tiniest, teeniest, most minute fart you’ve ever heard.  I was going to say it sounded like a mouse, but it was more tiny and more squeaky than a mouse.  It was a mouse fart.  A baby mouse fart.  And I knew that the other lady had heard it clearly.

I started to laugh, silently.  But then I couldn’t pee.  So I flushed, washed my hands, and went to a bathroom on another floor.

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I know that I’ve been leaning on other folks’ writing lately, but my dad just sent me this email and I had to share!

The currency commonly circulating in the mountain community, especially in harder economic times is beer.  In bars, it is well known that if one buys you a beer he is purchasing the right of conversation on his terms which usually involves some tedious subject that is often barely worth the beer (depending on ones thirst of course).  But locally it is legal tender for all debts, not public but at least private.  Most of the beer exchanged in or out of the bars is for goods or services provided in the past or in the future.  I just replaced the thermostat in Lisa’s Subaru for which I was paid two half cases of Corona.  Now Gary has a Windows CD that I need.  I am offering a half case minus a few bottles for a copy.  This will leave me with a half case as future credit.  Several times this year I took Don a half case of Bud for which he gave me a discount pass on Alaska Airlines to Florida (which cost him nothing).  This was an extremely good bargain for both of us since Don was snowed in and completely out of beer and for me a round trip ticket to Miami for $150 and a couple of cases of Bud was not bad either.  The band always receives free beer at gigs and parties as well as much food you can eat in addition to the regular performance fees.  Yesterday, we played a gig and got printed coupons for beer, drinks and food at any McMinnamin Brothers brew pub.  Now, Tom brews his own beer which he distributes in those three gallon soft drink kegs.  He supplies those to local parties, band practice and general consumption giving him a very high credit rating in the area.  Gary has just emailed me back with a counter offer: “The half case sounds good, but maybe we can bump it up a notch or two to a killer IPA.  And you have to drink it with me.” I have replied: “You drive a hard bargain.  I had a couple of half cases of Corona I got for replacing a thermostat in a Subaru I was trying to unload.  Now you want an IPA.  How about a six pack of a good IPA plus the Corona on deck for some hotter weather?  Any brand in particular available locally?”  You can see that Gary is no fool and has his finger on the pulse of the local beer market.  I’m not going to be able to pass off any wooden nickels here.

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In Origin Of Species, Darwin says:

From experiments which I have tried, I have found that the visits of bees, if not indispensable, are at least highly beneficial to the fertilisation of our clovers: but bumble bees alone visit the common red clover (Trifolium pratense), as other bees cannot reach the nectar. Hence, I have very little doubt that if the whole genus of bumble bees became extinct or, very rare in England, the heartsease (viola tricolour) and red clover would become rare or, wholly disappear. The number of bumble bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. Newman, who has long attended the habits of bumble bees, believes that “more than two thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England”.

As the number of mice is largely dependent, as everyone knows, on the number of cats: Mr Newman says, “Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of bumble bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice”.

Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of field mice and then bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!

This last statement was later expanded by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1892 to include the significance of the fact that old maids kept cats. This is important, he said, because the economy of the British Empire was based on roast beef eaten by its soldiers; and the source of the beef was cattle, which grazed on red clover, so it could be argued that the prosperity of the British Empire was dependent on its population of old maids.

The basis for Darwin’s observations about red clover appear to originate from experiments he carried out around 1859, in Great House Meadow, behind his house.

Incidentally, in Darwin’s time a bumble bee was called a “humble bee”. Not because they were thought to be a humble bug, but because of the connections to the proto-Germanic word “xumlō”, meaning “insect”. The etymology of “bumble bee” seems to be separate, as it comes from the Latin “bombus” or “boom”/”buzz”.

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