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May 2009

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1st May 2009

It was, of course, a bank holiday today - Labour Day. It was one of the ones that caught me out last year. I have to say that but for the lady in the shop it would probably have caught me out again! Business as usual for me. And for most of the rest of the village. I did my usual digging stint in the main garden. I'll get some pictures when there's a bit more to show. Then I went down to have another go on the outhouse garden. I hadn't even turned a spade when my neighbour called me over. He (amongst other people) was trying to get my strimmer running properly, and had found a snag. He decided it needed to go to Körmend. He asked if I had the documents for it and I said I did. I said "mikor?" (When?) - he said "most" (now). So I went back to the house, took the gardening boots off, put the trainers on, located the paperwork and went next door, ensuring that Pickle could not escape and terrorise the neighbourhood.

Next door the strimmer was already ensconced in his bright green Lada. I embarked and we set off. It struggled up the hill out of the village but he refused to change down. It struggled again out of the dip just out of the village and he refused to change down again. It climbed both the hills manfully and laboriously. Just before we got to the main road he made a pretence of putting on his seat belt. Now, I have no idea what the seat belt law is in Hungary, but I took the hint and actually put mine on and clipped it in. Static belts, of course, and even in my super-slim state I had to suck in to get it fastened. On the way I queried whether they would be shut, it being a bank holiday. No, no - he's a friend of mine! Sure enough, in a maze of back streets between the big East-West main road that runs through the town and the road that runs by the railway was this establishment. There was a single sign outside that said something about "moto". The small steel gate was ajar and we ventured in, to be greeted by a volley of barking from the inevitable dog. This one was in a cage. A big cage, I'll grant you, but a cage nonetheless. Inside the cage was a kennel. I've never seen a kennel welded up out of sheet steel before! The dog's name was painted on the roof - "Heinz". At a guess I would say a German Shepherd/Rottweiller cross. He had the same colouration as you would expect in a German Shepherd, but much bigger, and with the broad head and powerful jaws of the Rottweiller. Nevertheless, whilst he barked his tail never ceased to wag. Once inside it reminded me immediately of my uncle's business. There were all kinds of machinery from yank-tanks all the way down to strimmers in various states of repair/disrepair, a heap of discarded castings - you get the idea.

Good grief! I just did a Google search for "Welsh & Eyre", and there it is. My cousins must still be running the business! The "Welsh" comes from my paternal grandfather, and the "Eyre" comes from my uncle by marriage that married my father's sister.

Anyway, back to the plot. My neighbour's friend was out, as we were informed by a pleasant young man, who went about his business. So we waited, and waited. Eventually I got tired of standing up so I sat on the tyre of what looked like a future stock car. It had no front wings on it. I have no idea what make it was, but it had a big straight six cylinder engine in it.

Eventually my neighbour's friend turned up and the situation was explained, beyond my comprehension of magyarul, and after a lot of chat and banter we left. What the outcome will be with the strimmer I know not. My guess is that for the price of the strimmer I could have had the whole plot sprayed with something like "Roundup", but that would go seriously against the grain - it's bad enough just using a strimmmer, though I note here with glee that I used less than a gallon of petrol last year.

Back at the ranch I went back to work with the scythe and had the good fortune to run into a patch of long, slender grass that allowed me to clear about a hundred square metres in about half an hour. It would be nice if the whole plot was like that. I suppose eventually it will be, as the grasses do tend to take over when it is knocked back regularly. What I have to do is get rid of all the wild, weed-type young shrubs that have established and prevent scything down to ground level. Ah well, give it time! As I have said, I have certain areas earmarked for doing just that this year.

Rather a lot of beer got drunk in the pub - don't know why!

2nd May 2009

I worked off the inevitable hangover by getting out early and digging. With luck I ran into an easier patch than the last couple of times and so made good progress. I had another go at the other patch of garden too, with no interruptions. One more short session will see that bit finished.

A beer break, then into the cellar to pick out seed potatoes. I planted way, way too many last year. In spite of my gargantuan, almost veggie, stews and stuff I still have two trays untouched. They are all chitting like mad. I keep using the best of them, but I think the bottom tray will end up as compost. Ah well, grown from the land and destined to go back on the land. A little bit of permaculture. Seed potatoes picked, I hacked out a couple of rows, which should be enough, and planted them. At least this year I was easily able to hack out a couple of trenches. You'll remember that last year I was reduced to using the heavy mattock to make holes to put the seed spuds in. Progress! They really do clear the soil. The patch where they were last year was just so easy to dig. Almost worth digging bitty holes all over the land, let them run and then compost them just to clean out the soil.

I had about finished when a bitterly cold blustery wind blew up from somewhere. I had to go back to the house and put a couple more layers on. It looked like rain but didn't. The wind was strong enough to send stuff rolling about the yard. I even took my tender young plants indoors.

Somewhere along the line (I think when the village handyman strimmered) I had a thought that the barrow is simply not big enough once I start serious scything down of stuff. I decided to make an extension - easily detachable - to increase its capacity for wheeling about mini haystacks. I have also decided that this year I want just one big compost heap reasonably central, rather than the six that I have now dotted all over. I still need to sort them out. Dig out the well rotted stuff, and put the rest back into this years composting. So, in view of the weather, that's what I did in the afternoon. Well worth the time. It will save me hours of hayforking stuff all around the plot.

By the tail end of the afternoon, normal service had been resumed. The cold wind died down as rapidly as it had sprung up, and I was back to working in teeshirt and jeans. I did a bit more scything, and deliberately left the clearing up for when the barrow extension was done.

Ate, cleaned, went to the pub, but I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I beat a relatively early retreat and went home to an unpleasant surprise. Unusually, I had left the laptop on. It was virtually frozen. It took about thirty seconds to come out of screensaver, and when it did it was unusable. I couldn't even get to a console to do a top to see what the hell was going on process-wise. Even Control-Alt-Delete didn't work. Only one thing for it - hit the button and reboot it. Quite normal for a Windows box, but this isn't. It rebooted quite normally. Then I found the unpleasant surprise. My e-mail client came up as normal. With an empty Inbox, which is unfortunate as all April's e-mails were still in there plus a couple of days of May. I have a system. I have a folder (directory!) called "Archive". At the beginning of each year I create a new subfolder for that year. At the end of each month I create two new subfolders under the year - one for In and one for Out. My Archive folder was intact. All my archived mail, received and sent, was there and readable. Onto the Internerd, and the best suggestion I could find was to close down the client, delete the Inbox index file, and restart the client, which should rebuild the index file. Well, it tried to. It got about a third of the way and stopped. I even opened the Inbox in a text editor. Nice thing about Thunderbird - the Inbox is just plain text, readable in any old text editor. Which is just as it should be, having struggled with bloody Microsoft's proprietory format, which is a bastardised Access database, that Access will only read part of! It took an age to open. I will confess to not compacting the Inbox very often - just when it gets very big. It ended half way through a message received in November. Strange. The timestamp showed that the Inbox file was last updated at 17:07 today. Still nothing in the Inbox. I even tried to make a backup copy of it, as was. cp Inbox /tmp/. The copy got so far through, then fell over with an Input/Output error. Oh-oh - not good. Defeated for the night I went to bed.

3rd May 2009

So, over breakfast I returned to the e-mail problem. Still the same. I trawled the Internet some more, but came up with no solutions. I even went to my most recent system backup and opened the backup copy from about a week ago in a text editor. It stopped at exactly the same place as the current one, so that must be where the problem is. In hindsight I could have gone to a HexEditor (KHexEdit), but also in hindsight that would have taken precious time that I simply don't have. It isn't the first time I have lost some e-mails. Previously Microsoft has been the culprit. Why on earth Thunderbird suddenly shat itself and marked all Aprils as deleted/junk/whatever I guess I will never know. The upshot is that I lost all of Aprils inward e-mails, plus May 1st and May 2nd up to 17:07. So if you were expecting a reply from me on an e-mail that you sent and you read the blog, please just resend the last e-mail you sent as an aide-memoire for me!

Pissed off with e-mails, I bashed out another load of digging the main garden. I'm not far off what I want to get done this year, and some of it is earmarked for stuff that will only go into seed trays this month. After that I finished off the wheelbarrow extension. I have pictures of it, and it in use, but they are still in the camera, it's getting late and I want to get this days blog published. I'll put them up when I next sort out a batch of photos.

I had a bit of a bafflement with my new toys. On my Marples bitstock half inch centre bit it is quite clearly engraved, in quite big characters where the chuck will not rub it out over time ½". On my new toys I could find no sizes anywhere. Some of the shanks are well scrubbed by use but others are virtually unused, and the makers engravings quite clear. No sizes. I had noticed that there were numbers stamped on the shanks. I had Nos. 3 to 16, with a couple of unnumbered ones, hence sixteen bits. I added two and two and came up with five, as No. 3 was the smallest and No. 16 the biggest. I thought that Nos. 1 and 2 had obviously got broken at some stage - they are quite fragile in the smaller sizes. I set out to sort out what sizes they actually are. I knew they were all Imperial sizes, not metric. I simply adopted the stratagem of boring into a piece of wood until the spurs cut a fine circle then measuring it. No. 3 - three sixteens of an inch, No. 4 - quarter of an inch, an unmarked one also quarter of an inch, No. 5 - five sixteenths of an inch. You get the picture! To my shame, it was not until I got to No. 8 and it turned out to be half inch that the penny dropped. The numbers on the shanks are how many sixteenths of an inch in diameter they bore. What an odd, but yet nonetheless logical way of doing it. The numbers were almost certainly not stamped by the manufacturer, as they are very higgledy-piggledy and even use different fonts and font sizes. Anyway, now I know, so if I need a five eighths bit I find No. 10 :)

At the tail end of the afternoon it was very hot, and I had done with physical slogging for the day, so in the shade I went to a gentler pursuit - back to painting the windows. It had all got a bit out of sync. and I wanted to make sure that all the paintwork that needs finishing has had a coat of primer and two coats of undercoat, with a gentle rub down before the final undercoat. I whipped out the front windows and gave one side of all of them a first coat of undercoat. I still need to finish off the fillering of the frames and give them their first coat of undercoat too.

Wash, change, eat, pub!

4th May 2009

Carolyn Baker reviews Mike Ruppert's new book - A Presidential Energy Policy. Plenty of doom and gloom there, then!

Helper was due to come round and do some work. Half past eight he said, so I hung around after I had been to the shop and did some yard tidying up. Half past eight, no helper. Nine o'clock, no helper. Ah well, go and crack on with the digging. Sure enough, I had managed one row and two spadefuls and helper turned up. Back down to the yard we went. Helper set about giving the front gates their final coat of wood treatment and the metalwork another coat of the unbiqitous brown paint. Before he started I had him help me lift off one of the gates to move the hinges slightly. I whacked the bottom one with the hammer, and levered the top one out a little with a bit of the old pipework still lying about. We put the gate back on. It was worse than it was before! Until I spotted that it had not quite dropped back all the way onto the hinge pins. Another whack with the hammer, on the gate this time, soon fixed that. The levels were a little better - still not perfect. I'll have to do a little trick with the woodwork. That should sort it.

Helper set about the painting and I did the rest of the digging by the outhouse. Whilst I was at it I filled in a couple of dog holes that Pickle had created. She's very good at digging. Not quite so good at putting it back when she has finished! In the midst of the work helper and I did manage a beer break, of course. Helper went on his merry way to one of his multiplicity of other jobs once he had finished. I had lunch.

By this time it was really hot. I revoked on doing any more serious gardening and in the shade of the outhouse spent a leisurely hour undercoating windows. The lady from the Faluhaz called by and told me there was a problem with some (the only bit of ) paperwork that I had filled in for the village. She suggested that I consult with a particular English speaker in the village. I dutifully went round there, but the English speaker was out.

Back home I wheeled the barrow up the garden to the debris from the apple tree and worked at breaking and sawing it up into suitable size pieces - the smaller bits anyway - to go straight on the kitchen fire. I worked steadily until I had a barrowload, then wheeled it back to the yard and tipped it into the kitchen firewood store. Some got taken into the kitchen and used. Very good firewood it is too.

5th May 2009

This from a Wall Street Journal blog. All depends upon OPEC, renowned for their secrecy for the most part. If Ghawar peaks and goes into a decline similar to Cantarell then TSWHTF in a big way.

Sorry if the blog is getting a bit "samey", but that's how life is at the moment. At least this year I know the traps not to fall into. I had two big ones last year. The first was getting caught out by the absolutely explosive growth rate of everything once spring kicks in and the second was getting into an absolute panic about the state of the outside walls and wondering if the house was going to fall into the yard. The result was that most of what I had attempted to achieve in the garden fell into dereliction. I am already managing my time much better this year. I try and get out early (doesn't always work) and put in a couple of hours of spade/mattock work - the hard grafting - before it gets too hot. After that a couple of hours of "light" gardening. Sowing seed, looking after the seedlings, maybe a bit of hoeing. The odd beer break in between, of course. In the heat of the day, after lunch, maybe some project work, maybe some general maintenance or a steady bit of house painting. Early evening I try and do a bit of clearing up on the land. And water the plants. Must get some more hosepipe!

So today. Digging and a bit of hacking out the pathway up the garden was the grafting. The next bit was some sowing of seeds in the shade of the house, and then I did a bit of selected scything. It depends whereabouts I am on the garden whether scything falls into category No. 1 - hard graft, or category No. 2 - "light" gardening. Today I chose an area that is just long grass, with a few nettles. That is easy going stuff. I reckon on scything down topside of two hundred square metres in an hour in going like that.

After lunch I did a bit more painting prep on the house. Just finishing off tidying up the acrylic filler on the front window frames. After that I returned to seek the assistance of the English speaker to clarify what I had done wrongly on the only bit of paperwork I have had to complete for the village. The person was home this time. It's all about mains drainage. By some date or other the village has to go on mains drainage, but something was obviously lacking in my efforts to translate the paperwork using the on-line dictionaries which I have found. The cost of the infrastructure amounts to some two hundred and sixty thousand Forints per household. What I thought I was voting for was for it to happen now, or later. Wrong! What I was in fact voting for was whether the village as a whole wants to set up a savings scheme to cover the costs. I have my own thoughts on the matter anyway, amongst them being that I totally agree with Seymour (I think) who says that flushing away bodily waste with perfectly good drinking water is ridiculous. Back home I filled the paperwork in and then delivered it to the Faluhaz. The lady had a good look at it, and declared it to be OK.

A couple of promised pictures:
Wheelbarrow Extension Here's the wheelbarrow extension.
And here's me using it. Just to prove that I am still alive, and it's not someone else writing the blog :) Wheelbarrow Extension

6th May 2009

For the first time since I arrived here in Hungary I had a seriously bad knee day. Where did that spring up from? It was twinging on and off through the night which didn't help. When I got out of bed I felt the severity of it. Those of you who knew me in my Bournemouth University days will remember I had a similar problem. I was off work (and on crutches) for several weeks. Oh-oh! I simply cannot afford that kind of time off here! I hobbled to the shop, got the necessary provisions and hobbled home. All I did all day was to rest up in the kitchen and do a new leatherwork project. I've had the leather for a little while (thanks A.) and I had thought of a use for some of it. I won't say what right now, I'll do a picture when it's done. Once again the Leatherman® tool came into its own (thanks J). I used it to pre-punch the stitching holes. There are still not that many days that I don't use it for something. It's another box ticked on the acquired skill-set of the project. I've restitched leather stuff many, many times but this is the first time that I have made something from scratch. You know, I used to think that when they talked about the "grain" of leather they were talking about the surface finish. That might be so, but I found that it has distinctly different piercing properties along lines at right angles - just like wood.

That was what I did all day, but I admit that I did manage to cycle (sedately) to the pub and home ;)

7th May 2009

The knee was still bad but nonetheless I had work to do, so, again for the first time whilst here, I popped a couple of Ibuprophen tablets. My target for the morning was to clear the ever-growing weeds from around the vines. With the exception of half a one they are all lying on the floor, so the use of the scythe was out the window. I tackled it with the grass hook (sickle), which, being a one handed tool, allowed me to hold the vines off the floor whilst hacking away the weeds, not without the cost of a degree of discomfort.

The place never ceases to amaze me. Whilst I was doing that I made (I think) a discovery. Just up the left hand side of the plot, not far from where the first set of conifers was sawn down is a patch of shrubbery. It has been strimmered (more than once) and scythed (more than once), but it suddenly came to me when I looked at it that I am fairly certain that about three quarters of it is blackthorn. Well, it won't get scythed down or strimmered again until I know. I can't say I saw it flower. But then, it could well only bear fruit on the shoots from last years growth. Anybody know? The other quarter of the shrubby patch was a shrub that I know not. Damned stuff is springing up all over the plot. Up to about half an inch thick you can scythe through it. Above that and it is just too springy to scythe through. You can tell when you find a tree stump - the scythe stops dead, or even worse digs the point in. I have tried to identify the shrub on the Internerd but failed. It is very characteristic, having vertical stripes up the stems. The leaves are slightly crinkly looking and it has few branches which grow straight and slim. The leaves are very oily and, if part dried, burn very impressively on a bonfire. It has tiny cruciate white flowers - maybe six millimeters from tip to tip, and the sucker propagates happily via suckers! If it has a use (basketmaking?) I would be glad to know of it. I will be quite happy to grow a little stand of it to harvest, but at the moment it is infesting the land. I'll get pictures to see if anyone out there can identify it.

After lunch I went into town. I did my regular circuit of shops, in spite of the pain in the knee - Traffik (dohany), Gazdabolt (a watering can rose to replace the one Pickle ate when a puppy), the haberdashery/fabric/knitting shop of which I know not the name, Zebra (the decorating shop) and, of course, the Pinter Kocsma (Cellar Pub). I have to say that my hour and a quarter trip into town was a heart warming experience. I was welcomed and treated in a friendly way as a respected customer everywhere I went. When I think back to the "Oh, No - here comes the mad Englishman" days it is very different now. I was even complimented on my magyarul, which I vehemently denied, of course, being all too aware of the problems in the language department.

Back home I took the barrow up the garden and broke/sawed another load of dead apple tree. The kitchen woodstore grows ever fuller, and I have another great big piece of (ex-live) apple tree that was sawn down that needs to be cut up and put in the "next year's" store yet!

8th May 2009

Back to the routine. Out with the scythe, and I knocked back probably another couple of hundred square metres of easy going stuff. Hmmm, two hundred square metres - sounds a lot, but it's not really. That's a patch of twenty by ten metres. Still, when you take into account the little bit that I have in cultivation and the area of the plot without the yard, I suppose that twelve or thirteen such sessions will see the plot cleared. Then it will be time to go back and start over. It's a bit like painting the Forth bridge. I also have another stratagem for making life easier. I am keeping the heavy, narrow mattock nearby whilst scything, and if I find one of those blasted, springy shrub stumps that just makes the scythe go "boooiiiinnggg" bish-bash, out it comes. It slows down progress considerably, but by the end of the year (hopefully) I will have cleared the entire plot of those shrubs. The tree stump problem remains. If I find one that has started to rot it gets the same treatment as the shrubs. I don't make any attempt to get all the roots out - just take it down to ground level to make the scything easier. Every little helps, as the old lady said as she pee-ed in the teapot.

The mosquito season is in full swing. Once again I am covered in bites, but I have to say that I have not had the reaction to them this year that I had last. Immunity? This year they are just more of a nuisance.

Towards the end of my scything session I had quite a chat to the lady next door (not the one with the chickens) who was working in her patch of garden adjacent to my fence. Did I mention that they actually ploughed that little strip of land? Well, they did! I suppose that that patch is about the same as mine in area but about twice as long and only half as wide. The chat with the lady was about garden stuff. What I had in the ground, and what they had in the ground. I managed to mis-identify a particular plant that they had in the ground nearby. I thought it might have been sorrell but it wasn't. She told me a name, but in the Hungarian it meant nothing to me, and I don't take the szótár up to the garden. She dashed back to the house and returned quite quickly returned with jar of stuff which I immediately recognized by sight, having been given some by helper's mother. She told me the name of it, which I managed to memorise. I looked it up back at the house. "Torma" - turns out to be horseradish. I never was a lover of horseradish sauce, but I must admit that a forkful of this pickled horseradish gives a certain "zing" to a veggie stew. Just another take on the different ways that familiar ingredients are used here.

After lunch, and quite physically tired, I had an hour or so on the leatherworking project. After that I tackled a job that has been bugging me since the new doors were fitted. Hungarian external doors (in pairs) have bolts recessed into the edges of the door top and bottom. On the small door the top bolt goes into the frame, and as such was already fitted and working fine. The bottom bolt has to go into a hole in the floor, basically. It seems as though work here in Hungary falls into one of two categories: a) it happens immediately, is done quickly and is done thoroughly and b) you might get it done if you whinge on about it long enough. The making and fitting of the new doors to the house certainly fell into a). I know that there was a lot of work involved and a special effort made in order that the doors were in place in time for my daughter and friend's visit. The fixing of the bottom bolt appeared to drop into category b)! So I thought "B****cks, I'll fix it myself!" So I did. I chipped out enough to make a nice solid cement bed, and created a plate for the bolt to fit through out of my ever-dwindling stock of stainless steel. A little mixing of cement was dabbed in place, left to go off for a while, then the plate trowelled in nice and flush with a couple of wallplugs and stainless steel screws to hold it in place. Job's a good 'un.

Tomorrow was free rubbish collection day, and helper turned up to help me sort out the stuff to go onto the roadside and physically get it out there ready for the morning. A fair bit of what I had put aside for removal was carefully held back by helper, on the grounds that he could get money for it. Beer money for him and me to share! Works for me, so I now await the arrival of a friend of his to collect all the scrap and weigh it in for cash.

Home from the pub, and onto the Internet, I found that I had had a really pleasant e-mail from a former work colleague. I was already happy enough, but that quite made me up!

9th May 2009

So today was free disposal of rubbish day:
Rubbish Day Looking up the street...
...and down the street. Rubbish Day

Mine was already out. Lots of other people were putting theirs out early in the morning. Mine had also been well raided by the itinerant types who spend the morning (and previous evening) rummaging to find anything of salvagable value. I threw out a defunct radiogram which was in the big room when I got here. They even stripped all the copper wires out of it!

With the prospect of another very warm day (i.e. hot) I got on with the heavy stuff early - clearing up the scything debris from yesterday. It takes about the same time to clear up as it does to scythe down. Longer if the scything is easy. Todays took about the same time as the scything down, but that includes the fair amount of time I spent chatting to the neighbour. So, workwise, longer then. By the time I had finished the specs were discarded and I perspired freely.

By the way, "my" swallows are back. I'm fairly certain that they are the same pair returning from last year. I think that last year they were probably first year swallows, just paired off as they took quite a while investigating before using the summer kitchen. This year they just dived straight in - they knew exactly where they were going. Just another little thing that keeps my spirits up. I also think I may have a woodpecker in residence. I have heard the rat-tat-tat many times before, but this time it seems to be much closer at hand, as in in the garden. Haven't seen him/her yet, but then they are a bit elusive.

Some sad news to report is that I have a dead vine. It's one of the bigger, older ones too. The vines do vary a lot in when they come into bud and how rapidly and strongly they grow. This one just has not come into bud. Mind you, it was not in the best of positions. It was strongly shaded by the now-removed Christmas trees and had overhead next doors huge larch (I think) tree.

A day of bits and pieces followed - nothing out of the ordinary. Until I went to the pub. The very smart guy that was at the pig killing was there. So was helper (nothing new there then!), who triumphantly produced for my inspection a publication. "Húsos". Which means "Meaty". There was a report in there of the village pig killing, with a couple of pictures. Four columns by about twenty five centimetres. Quite a big report. I got a mention - not by name, but just generically as "the Engishman". Apparently my part in the proceedings was much appreciated (and my relatively small contribution to the charity, if you want to call it that).

Yes, yes! I know! I still haven't posted the pictures. I will, just as soon as I have time to sort out five hundred-odd images, put them into separate directories for squeamish and non-squeamish, iGal them and upload them. Next time it snows!

10th May 2009

No doom and gloom, so a little something to cheer everybody up!

A nothing sort of a day, being a Sunday. Some garden work and went to see the local football team lose. Took pictures as usual. So, speaking of pictures I can finally reveal the nature and progress of the "unnamed project", now that they are safely delivered and in-situ in the UK. It came to me in a flash, one morning when I was doing some woodwork or other. I was thinking about my two new baby grandsons, born within a couple of months of one another. "I know." I thought. "I'll make them each a mobile." You know, the things that go twirly-whirly round and round with stuff hanging down. Pictures:
Jig You have seen this before, but I didn't tell you what it was for. Well, I decided that the mobiles would be little birds - brightly coloured - twirling around. I made the first one by hand, and although it was good it wasn't good enough. I wanted my birds to all have the same dihedral and angle of attack. So I built the jig.
After that I was able to run an assembly line. The bodies queued up to have their tails fitted and then go on the jig for fitting the wings. Assembly Line
First Flight In my wisdom I decided to make all the little birds first, then paint and assemble the mobiles. Here's the set of birds for the first mobile. Every bird is quite unique...

...anyone want to pick me up on that? I'll rephrase it. Every bird is unique. You can't have degrees of uniqueness. It's binary. On or off. It's either unique or it's not. My birds are. Every one is deliberately slightly different.
Then I made the second set. Both Flights
Painting the Birds They had two coats of primer. Here they are out of the paintshop with the first coat of primer. Notice the tails aren't painted - I had to hold them somehow!
And finally in their various colours. Painting the Birds
Mobile The final process was hooking them up onto the various horizontal bits. The picture doesn't do them justice. I could have done with a black background - not the front of the wardrobe. This was also taken before I finally balanced them. They proved to be quite sensitive - half a millimetre out caused the horizontals to be not horizontal to the extent that you see. All done with fishing line, of course. Anyone want to buy seven hundred and fifty metres of five kilogram carp line? The line was double knotted (a royal pain of a job - a double overhand knot followed by a single overhand knot to give them bulk, then glued in, and secured by tiny little wooden tapered nails, also glued in.

So that was the unnamed project. Of all the woodworking projects, big and small, that I have done since I have been here, completed or ongoing, I think it is the one I enjoyed the most. Working at such a small scale and it coming out OK was very satisfying. And all made out of firewood. Walnut, of course.

11th May 2009

Helper turned up at seven in the morning to steal my house key. I had happened to mention last night that the new door only came with one key. Helper spoke to door maker who promptly replied that it was no problem as he was going into town today anyway - hence the arrangement for helper to take the key. I was a bit cheeky and asked if he could also get me five litres of petrol whilst he was in town. Also no problem. As ever, the locals are only too pleased to help. So helper also took my petrol container. No more than three hours later (I know, cos it was first beer time) doormaker arrived with two spare keys and five litres of petrol. I had enough cash to pay for the keys but not the petrol. Again, no problem. "This evening?" I asked. Good enough. He had a look at my work on the bottom bolt of the new door whilst he was there and declared it "Jó munka".

I tanked up the strimmer and tackled the bits in the yard that I can't get to with the toy mower. There is a long and convoluted story with the strimmer, of which you know a little. Suffice it to say that at the moment it starts (fine), runs (sort of) and strims (so long as the going is no worse than the skin on a rice pudding). I don't much care. It does what a strimmer should do, which is round the edges, around trees and so on. It remains my intention to use it as little as possible anyway. In long and easy going I can still outpace it by a factor of, I would guess, about two using the scythe.

Lunch, then, having done my stint of hard graft for the day, a little leatherwork and a bit of the house painting.

Somewhat later I popped around next doors for a reason, and ended up getting invited in for a drink. I suppose I was there about three quarters of an hour and we chatted about this and that. There was only once that I was stuck. I hadn't taken the trusty szótár with me, and their little phrase book wasn't any help. Not bad considering that I still have not had the chance to do any real studying of the language. I'm simply too busy with the work on the house and the land, and my social life (the pub!). Just as in England, I go to the pub for two reasons. One is to be around people for a while, and the other is to have a drink. I'm quite happy with my own company for a while, but I'm not a "loner".

I had an unusual insect bite today. I have no idea what caused it - I never felt it happen. But, somewhat later it became irritable. There were what appeared to be two separate bites each one of which comprised an equilateral triangle of three separate puncture marks. Each of the puncture marks was also triangular. A new one on me, but at least it only became irritable. Not grossly swollen or carrying other, possibly worse, side effects.

As usual (see above) I went to the pub. As many times I just went in my working clothes, unwashed and unshaven. Such is the work ethic here that to appear thus certainly does not attract censure, rather approbation. Helper pointed out that I had been painting. How did he know? I managed to get a couple of paint spots on my teeshirt, and a couple on my neck. I hadn't realised. I don't look in the mirror very often. I stopped looking when I said to the mirror "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the ugliest one of all?" and it answered "You, you fat B****rd!". Well, at least now it can't call me fat! Here are a couple of pictures. One to cheer someone up (and depress them at the same time), and one to piss someone off:
This one is for Suzy. Eight precious little plants. That's the good bit. The depressing bit is that that is out of two hundred seeds! :( Seedlings
Baby Morellos And this one is to piss off Jayne. Sorry Jayne :)

12th May 2009

Very short today, in a continuing attempt to get caught up.

A surprise when I went out. Everything was drenched. There had obviously been a really heavy overnight rain. I never heard it.

I cleared all the debris from yesterdays scything, then scythed some more. A green wellies day! Used the new hoe on the garden, sowed some more seeds and did a bit of strimming once it dried off a bit.

Much later in the day I decided it was not too late for a little experiment. Very much a part of the project, so I drilled three rows in an as yet unplanted bit of the strawberry patch and sowed some linum usitatissimum "Regina" just as an experiment. Ordinarily I would just dig a patch, broadcast the seed and rake it in, but seeing as it is not a thing I have ever grown before, in an attempt to isolate it from the weeds I sowed it in rows. If I see three rows of stuff appearing that I don't recognise I will know what it is. Growing season is about a hundred days and I already have a plan for the retting, but I will have to make myself a swingle ;)

Some news from the local news. It looks like the Hungarian government is going to take some more money off me. It seems, to my understanding, that in addition to the land tax that I pay they will collar a bit extra for the number of rooms I have. Hmmm - tempted to knock the little room and the kitchen back into one. But that would involve a shed-load of work relocating the stove. Maybe not!

13th May 2009

It rained. After yesterday's rain it was far too wet to get on the garden, and I have to admit I do tend to revoke on scything in the rain. So, long overdue, I had a go at the house. I swept right through, cleaned the stove, lit it and (improbable as it sounds) did a load of washing. I don't have a hang-up about hanging out wet washing in the rain. After all it will just give it an extra rinse. Looking forward, this particular lot of washing was on the line for three days before it dried. None the worse for that.

In the course of my cleanup I found I had an ant problem in the hallway. The solution was the same as before (April - cupboards) - just the merest puff of diatomaceous earth and I no longer had a problem. They don't like it. They just fu.... err, go away. What amazes me is how far the powder goes. I had a one kilogramme pack, which included a free puffer-full, shipped out in January. I have done the dog with it multiple times, done her bedding with it multiple times and used it here and there around the house, and I still haven't got through the puffer-full yet. About a quarter of it remains. It was about twenty five quid to buy, which I thought (on my limited budget) was a lot of money. But when I compare that to the cost of the chemical poison that I was using just to make Pickle poisonous, with god-knows what side effects to her (bless her - she does try and speak to me but I understand doggie less than I understand magyarul), it really is cheap. Sorry - that was a bit convoluted - you might have to read it a couple of times. I remember getting a serious (red ink-type) bollocking at school for writing an entire paragraph, consisting of about two thirds of a page, in a single sentence. I still have to restrain myself from doing that.

Oh bugger! I have just discovered a very good reason why I need to rewrite the whole navigation of the blog! I go with the theory that web pages should be forever available - not shuffled along into some archive - but I have just found that a couple of my pages change location month by month. Not good. I will fix it. I was going to say that if you have read my "Why?" page it moves from month to month. It shouldn't. Sorry. Speaking of my "Why?" page, it may or may not have escaped your notice that I am a "Peak Oil" doomer. It's strange, but if you look around at the real hard-line doomers they are, by and large, the most optimistic and cheerful bunch. Matt Simmonds, Matt Savinar, Richard Heinberg - I could go on. They are all cheerful upbeat guys. I like to think that I am too. Anybody out there that worked with me that found me a depressive sort of a character? It's one of the reasons I am writing this blog, and one of the reasons that I am here at all. "Peak Oil" doomers tend to be people that think the worst but hope for the best. I still hope for the best. I suppose that I can put that down to being a bit of a computer programmer. Goes with the job - being an optimist - "It'll compile this time! It will, it will!".

14th May 2009

Same old, same old. Scything and clearing up. I stood it as long as I could, then went back to the main garden and sowed three rows of beans. All local-type beans.

The spuds are starting to show, and I have two rows of onions and (a bit hitty-missy) a row of carrots. At the moment I have twenty tomato plants in, plus a big row of sunflowers, a row of spinch and a row of sorrell. I've got a load of stuff in seed trays waiting to show - herbs, brassicas and so on. I need to dig another six feet or so of main garden to get some of this in. I have a load of various types of paprika ready to go in the ground, and - blessed relief - there are very few slugs around this year. I'm told that a severe winter sees then off severely! Well, we had one of those. Enough to freeze my water supply for however long. I know it was sub-zero for a full three weeks.

Later I cooked one of my big veggie stews. It was not a hot day anyway, and the heat in the kitchen was welcome. I also baked some biscuits which turned out rather well. Simple recipe - five of flour, four of fat, one of sugar, whatever flavouring (these were ginger biscuits) and an egg yolk. Cream the fat and the sugar then beat in the egg yolk then add the flour and flavouring and mix to a very soft paste. It should only just leave the sides of the bowl. I decided to try the Hungarian method. They don't use greaseproof paper or grease the baking tray - they flour it. Works like a charm. I'll certainly be using that basic recipe again.

15th May 2009

An excellent open letter by Suzanne Duarte that I would urge you all to read.

I am steadfastly following my regime of bashing out all the evil, springy, shrubby stuff that prevents either scything or strimmering (no such verb!). In about three hours I managed maybe twenty square metres. Not good. In the midst of this my neighbour at the top of he plot appeared. He has always been friendy towards me - I know not why. We held a rather one sided conversation (his!) about the state of my land. I muttered something in agreement and went back to the slog of scything and rooting out the pernicious shrub that wants to take over the estate. I wish I knew what it is, and if there is a use for it, once again! Pictures will follow, and I hope my resident botanical expert can help.

After that, painting. It now remains to rub the frames and windows at the front down, give them one more coat of undercoat and another gentle rub down, then I will be into the glossing and hopefully that job will be out of the way for several years!

The lady from the Faluhaz appeared with village paperwork. Mmmmm - two thousand Forints a month for eight years! Starting next week. I have to present myself at the Faluhaz with various bits of ID, and the cash. I am surmising, but I reckon that that will stretch the budgets of some folk around here. I could (I don't) live for about three days on that!

I went back into the garden and spent a pleasant hour gently hoeing. Again, I do not intend getting caught out as I did last year with the panic about the state of the borders of the property and the state of the house.

The shop has started opening in the evening for an hour or so. (The shop lady is not overly happy about it!). When she opened at a quarter to six I popped over there for a couple of things. As I was crossing the road I noticed a bird clinging to one of the multi-function telegraph poles that line the village - electricity, telephone wires and street lamps are all attached. I thought "That has to be a woodpecker.". Sure enough, as if it had read my thoughts, it started to peck. At the metal plate that holds the street light on - stupid bird.

I had a bollocking from helper in the pub about my drinking habits! Apparently I don't drink enough! I should start my day with a coffee and a pálinka. Hmmm - I might be a bit of a PA but I still don't start that early!

16th May 2009

I had a bash with the strimmer about halfway up each boundary. That took only about half a tankful of fuel. In the main it was not too bad going anyway as I had already had a go around the vines with the grass hook. It so happens that the limit of the vines on the right hand side (looking from the road) coincides with the boundary between the old lady next door's property and the other cottage at the top. I knew from experience that the next bit was going to be a so-and-so. No good even thinking about using the strimmer there. For one the grass is too long - ideal for scything, but for another that whole border is full of the wretched springy shrub weeds. I started on up, and with the very first swing of the scythe "boooiiinngg" - the springy shrub weed. I started on it with the mattock but even had to give that best, so it was back to the yard and fetched the big axe to take to the roots. That fixed the sucker! Almost every scythe stroke was the same. Scythe - mattock - axe. I managed three fence posts worth before I gave it best. I reckon about a fifth of the really bad bit. Just one more job that will only need doing the once.

The soap factory is back in operation by the way. I had a change of tactic on that too. instead of using straw as the filter I have used cotton wool. When I chucked another can of water in I took the opportunity of checking what had filtered through. It definitely is lye! It has a very charateristic soapy feel to it when you wet your fingers and rub them together. Unfortunately, until September time that will be it as the big stove is my source of ash and it doesn't get lit at this time of year. The walnut ash does seem to be a good source of lye.

I was doing the start of this blog update when the was the sound of many car horns tooting as they came through the village. A wedding! I dashed to the window and gave them a wave.

The vexing question of posts for the vines remains unresolved. Astonishing in an area like this where there is so much wood about that I cannot source posts. I have a two part solution. Firstly I will recycle the posts that came out of the ground. I'll cut the bad bits off the bottoms and if I can save six feet they will go back two feet six into the ground. That will give me three feet six of post. Not ideal - five feet would be better. But then, that is better than having the blasted vines just lying on the floor! The second part of the plan is for the future. I will plant, to crop, a load of chestnut trees. Very close - propbably only about four feet apart in a square. That will force the ones in the centre to grow tall and straight. I don't know how long they would take to grow to post size but when they do, down they will come and I will have a load of good hardwood posts.

The fruit on my fruit trees is beginning to plump up nicely. All looks good. And finally some pictures. First the new hoe:
This is the Hungarian hoe. And a wonderful tool it is too (as I think I have said). It can be used with vigour to despatch large weeds, or delicately to within about an inch of whatever you are hoeing round. Hungarian Hoe
Me with Hungarian Hoe To give you an idea of scale.
Next the blasted shrub that is causing me so much grief and work. Can anyone out there identify, or knows somebody that can?:
Foliage. Shrub Weed
Shrub Weed Stem, with characteristic stripe.
Insignificant pale green flower. Shrub Weed
Some discoveries on my travels around the estate:
Hazel? A hazel bush? It went indiscriminately under the scythe last year. I'll leave it this year and see if it really is hazel.
A beautiful little dog rose. Dog Rose
Pickle with Sunflowers You may remember that I had to winnow the sunflower seeds from the seed head last year. Well, it appears that some good ones got away as here they are growing in the drainage channel in the yard. Much to my surprise Pickle had not dragged them out with her running chain. Even more to my surprise is the fact that they are growing there, as all there is is a couple of feet of gravel under them!
The first strawberry - not quite ripe. Strawberry
And finally, finally because someone said they couldn't make it out on the original photo. As I said at the time - an ostentatious display of wealth:
Name in Lights

17th May 2009

A bit from the Beeb about older people and sunshine. No problems there, then. And An article from the Northern Rivers Echo.

Well, I paid big time for my exertions in the garden yesterday. I ached from my neck to my ankles. On top of that my head ached too - for the usual reason. Sunday anyway, so definitely a day of rest and recuperation. I spent most of it updating the blog and sorting out outstanding photos to go on the blog, as you probably noticed.

Did a bit of washing (On a Sunday? Shock, horror) and hung it out. Beautiful day. I suppose in the afternoon it was high twenties. Very pleasant when you are not doing hard physical stuff in it.

Pub in the evening where I encountered a snag. The bike lock, which I have faithfully used since the incident would not open so that I could lock the bike up. It had been getting increasingly "iffy" for a couple of weeks. I had given it a squirt of WD40, and another of bike oil to no avail. To be honest it feels like the actual lock tumblers have come apart inside the lock. Fourteen months old, and never used for a fair bit of that. And it was not cheap!

Ah well, not to be denied my drink the bike had to take its chance. With it being such a pleasant evening anyway the pub doors were open and it was parked right by the door, so it would have had to be a fairly brass-necked villain to wheel it away from there. Pondering the lock problem in the pub it came to me that somewhere around the house I had seen a padlock lurking. Sure enough, when I got home I located it immediately, exactly where it has been for the last five years at least, and untouched by me since I moved in. On a nail by the kitchen door with about thirty keys that fit I know not what. It is quite unlike any padlock I have encountered before. Where the key goes in there is a locating pin for the key, but it has a slot either side for the teeth of the key. That made it easy to find the key. Two, in fact. I untangled one from the mass of keys and inserted it in the lock. To my amazement the lock opened with a well-oiled click. The key continued to turn in the lock until I had turned it one hundred and eighty degrees. At about one hundred and fifty degrees there was a definite click from within the lock - this was after it had opened. I found I couldn't turn the key back, nor could I get it out of the lock. Bugger, that's a duffer then! I snapped it shut, and the key fell out on the floor. I picked it up, put it back in the lock, and it wouldn't turn. My curiosity aroused I took the key out and put it in the other way - one hundred and eighty degrees revolved. It turned, the lock clicked open, there was another click from inside the lock as I completed the hundred and eighty degree turning, and the key wouldn't come out of the lock. Click the lock shut and the key came out. Put the key back in the same way it came out and it wouldn't turn. Put the key in the other way and the lock worked fine. What a peculiar action! I should explain that the key is not symmetrical. The lever steps on one side are quite different to the other. I can only conclude that within the padlock must be two separate sets of levers and some means of differentiating as to which set acts. All in a little lock, the body of which is about five centimeters by four. Amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that I managed to write of the order of four hundred and fifty words, more or less just about a padlock. I astonish myself sometimes!

18th May 2009

More bashing out of the border between my place and the cottage at the top. The start of it was grim. Every swing of the scythe encountered the dreaded shrubs, down would go the sycthe and I would have to heft the heavy mattock. Somewhere by the old apple tree which had huge lumps sawn off it I ran into good going, and in short order I had reached to where next door's yard ends and the cottage begins. I had to go a little over my allotted time, but I was so near to finishing that bit that it was worth the extra few minutes. That was one of the worst patches on the entire border. Last year it proved virtually impossible to use the strimmer on it effectively. It would simply rip the strimmer cord off repeatedly.

After that I "borrowed" a few links from the chain that I use to secure Pickle in the garden - the one that she broke - to make a chain for securing the bike with the found padlock.

I got around to the slightly overdue job of pricking out and planting my various types of paprika. Two different sorts of sweet peppers and two different sorts of hot peppers. Then it was back to the house painting. All the front windows and frames have now had one coat of primer and one coat of undercoat. I'll give them a rub down then another coat of undercoat and then I will be into the glossing. As I was finishing the sky darkened and the rumble of thunder grew closer. The storm crashed and banged within a mile or so, but not a drop of well needed rain did we get!

19th May 2009

I cleared up the debris from yesterday's scything, then decided to wander on down to the Faluhaz to see what the crack was with the savings scheme. Only to be told that it only applies to Hungarian citizens of twenty years standing. That's a no-no then! Ah well, I'll just have to save the pennies. Back at the cottage I sat down with a beer. The village was very quiet, but it was particularly noticable that from all directions you could hear the chatter of birdsong. A new one on me came and sat on the front gate for a moment or two. A bash at Google a while later revealed it to be a black throated thrush. Never saw one of those before. Speaking of birds, my swallows appear to have moved house. They are now in and out of the little garage (my potting shed). Oh well, the door will just have to stay open then. Maybe I disturbed them too much with my comings and goings into and out of the summer kitchen.

An English speaker who is in the village for a while came to the gate and we had quite a long chat. We chatted about all manner of stuff including life in the village, what I was doing with the cottage, the state of the world and so on. A very pleasant half hour or so. No sooner had he left than one of the villagers came up to the gate. He just wanted to make me aware of something. I knew him by sight - I have bumped into him here and there in the village. I never see him in the pub and I don't know him by name. Always friendly though, just like pretty well all the villagers.

After that I chose some timber for a little project someone wants me to do. Then I went back to the leatherwork and did a little more at that. I just pick it up odd times when I am having a beer and a smoke and do a few stitches. It will get done eventually. It does have a good use!

I have crept into the habit of going into the garden and doing the hoeing last off before I go to the pub. By then the heat of the day is fading and it isn't hard and sweaty work. I find it very soothing. Another job on a par with using the scythe only less like hard work. Not that scything is that hard a work anyway. Clearing up afterwards is much harder work. I only managed a couple of rows when it started to rain. I did notice on my travels that my three rows of beans were showing, and my three rows of flax. Must teach myself to spin.

20th May 2009

Gardening, woodwork. The only thing worth writing about was that at some stage in the afternoon I decided to have a go at the tree stump in the front garden with the brace and a bit. I read on the Internet that one way of getting rid of tree stumps (at least to ground level) is to drill it full of holes like a Swiss cheese then take the axe to it, so I thought I would give it a go. When I tried to bore the first hole the top of the stump just split and a big bit fell off. So I just took the big axe to it without drilling the holes:
Tree Stump I should have done a "before" photo really.

21st May 2009

I never mentioned Hungarian number plates on vehicles. It goes to show the paucity of both vehicles and people in this country that they are still using a three letter and three number system for number plates. Now, when did we run out of those in the UK? 1963? 1964? Thereabouts.

More of the same in the garden. Scything and bashing out shrubs and clearing up yesterday's debris. The wheelbarrow extension is doing good service. I can get at least five barrow loads of scythed down stuff on there. It's a bit like my brother - "He ain't heavy" - the grass is just bulky. So far I have managed to maintain the discipline of putting it all on the one heap. It's going to be a big heap! I managed five metres or so of hacking out the path back towards the house. Hmmm, five metres out of pushing on towards two hundred! That would be about fourty days worth then. That's OK, my aim remains to have a decent hacked out, level and if possible grassed path from top to bottom of the plot, including round the fruit trees. I still have to do from the top of the plot to as far as I got on the neighbour's side of No. 68.

I did a bit more paintwork, then in the heat of the day did a couple of days worth of blog. I was within a paragraph of finishing when the computer did its instant switching off thing. Ah well, foog it, I thought.

Somewhat later, home from the pub, I thought to add the final paragraph to the blog, only to be greeted by Kate with a message saying "This appears to be a binary file" blah. blah. Yep, it was. Utterly corrupted. In my semi-inebriated state I tried a couple of things. Opened it up in a HexEditor. Yep binary. Went on the Internerd and found some file recovery software for Windose. I downloaded that and rebooted into Windose, after all we are talking a plain ASCII text file here (almost, Peter). It didn't recover it. Tired, disappointed for my blog readers and frustrated I went to bed.

22nd May 2009

Normal service is resumed!

Well, as normal service as you get with me!

I had a physically, but not mentally relaxed day. It started with having another go at fixing the corrupt blog file in the cold light of day. I had just as little success as I had the previous evening. Thoroughly pissed off I pondered what to do about the laptop. That's twice now it has eaten my stuff and once is one time too many! I had a thrash around the Internet to see how much a cheap and cheerful desktop machine would cost here. That's an art in itself - the Internet seems to be dominated by what I would call directory sites. Links to, or adverts for other sites. Pain - I hate them in English and I hate them more in Hungarian. I only managed to find a couple of on-line shops and the prices (comparatively) seemed very high. Mmmmm, I'll have to do some more pondering!

As a displacement activity I did a load of washing and got it hung out. A lovely hot day so it didn't take long to dry. After that I followed up an invite for coffee with the chap I chatted to over the gate. Another very pleasant hour covering all sorts of topics. He showed me some of the works-in-progress on his place. I know he reads the blog. I hope he drops me an e-mail as I can't find the note he sent me and I can't remember whether his e-mail address was in it or not. Most unlike me. Paperwork goes in one of two places - either for filing (such stuff as you are supposed to keep by law for a length of time) or it goes for scanning. Shame the scanner didn't survive the trip to Hungary!

In the afternoon I finished off undercoating the windows. I had eight of them laid out on wood on the yard when the inevitable thunderstorm came along. Fortunately, it being undercoat, it is touch dry within minutes in the sun. The rain was heavy enough to bounce and when it did stop the windows were in a sorry state. Plastered with all the dust and sand off the yard. I had to hose down and wipe off every single one. No harm done though, and the storm passed and within a few moments it was hot and sunny again.

Not for that long! By the time I was thinking of going to the pub another storm arrived. Torrential rain. I grabbed the leather jacket and dashed out to the yard to rescue the little plants which were getting a serious hammering. None too soon, as the tray they were standing in couldn't cope with the water and was filling up. I whipped the whole lot into the summer kitchen and let it drain. Not to be denied my visit to the pub I just left the biker jacket on and went.

In the pub I recounted my tale of woe with the computer to helper. His immediate response was that if I did have to get a new one don't buy it in Hungary, go to Austria. Now why didn't I think of that?!

Big Brother is watching you!. George Orwell, anyone?

23rd May 2009

Fairly short today, in an attempt to make good the catastrophy and pain that the corruption of the blog file caused. I cleared up the last lot of stuff that I scythed down. Only two rows so it didn't take long. After that I hacked out another section of the new path towards the top of the land. You know how it is. I hack out the sides first and get the line of the path sorted. It's not destined to be a straight path. It is deliberately going to be a G.K. Chesterton sort of path. Answers on a postcard! Anyway, I hacked out the sides. Should I stop at the old apple tree, or should I go the next two metres up to where I have scythed. I went to where I had scythed. I should have stopped at the apple tree. I still had the middle to hack out, having done the sides. I stuck at it though and got it done. Probably ten metres worth. Another fifteen days or so thus, and one of my aims for this year will be met. Then I have to do the same around all the fruit trees. And scythe down the rest of it and get rid of all the wretched shubbery. Basically I am trying (slowly) to turn a meadow back into a garden. Not that I am a nimby - I like meadows. I can even tolerate some of it in my back yard. But not all of it!

I had a break. A beer break, naturally. Then decided that I had not done enough in the garden for the day so I went back with the scythe and set to to hack out where the path is going to go. I really got into the swing of it. (Is the use of a scythe the origin of the phrase "getting into the swing of it"?) I was really enjoying it and I got to within twenty or twenty five metres of the top of the property. I know that I could just go over the top of all the offending shrubbery, and knock back the meadow in three or four days, but then I would just have the same problem next year. And the year after, and the year after that. If by the end of the month I have the borders scythed and rid of all the shubbery I will be happy enough.

After lunch I finally finished all the undercoating of front windows and frames.

24th May 2009

Another short entry as most of the day was taken up with fixing the computer. Having made longhand notes in the Black Book of all the stuff I thought I might need to rebuild manually I took the plunge and started out to do a reinstall upgrading to Centos 5.2. I stuck the first disk in and, of course, it asked if I wanted to do a media check. Having been caught out before with a corrupt CD trashing an install I decided it was worth the time. All seven CDs! Seven CDs! What was DOS 5 point something? Four floppy disks? Five? Anyway. I went back to the first CD in response to the prompt and away it went. Of course it found my existing installation and asked if I wanted to upgrade it. Well, if it would upgrade it would save a lot of manual editing and rebuilding various things, and if it fell over I could always go back and do a fresh install. So I upgraded it.

I didn't waste my time sitting watching a progress bar. After each CD was inserted and started on its bit of the upgrade I went and did a bit on the leatherwork project. I got quite a lot done! Eventually it went through all seven CDs. Usual crap - "Remove media and hit Return to restart the machine" type of thing. So I did. To my amazement it worked! I ask myself why sudo yum upgrade falls over with failed dependencies. Sorry, non-techie people, a lot more detail than you need, I'm sure.

A lot more of the same followed that I won't go into except to say that the updating system broke itself - not for the first time - and the rather unhelpful message that it gave was (paraphrased) "If you don't know how to fix this go away and find someone that does". Not helpful, really not helpful. Thankfully somewhere stirring within the evermore dim and distant memories of a past existence I remembered how to fix it!

There was one other incident of note during the day. In one of my many breaks from the computer during the day I noticed Pickle behaving as if she had caught a bumble bee, but it went on and on and on. I investigated. Nope! She had caught a live mole. I didn't intervene. It might offend some people but I am a great believer in letting nature take its course. And the moles are a mixed blessing - they do eat a load of nasties in the soil but they also burrow through the roots of your precious young plants. So I let Pickle get on with it as an observer. If she picked it up in her mouth it either bit or scratched her. If she put her bloody great paw on it it either bit or scratched her...
...You know, I always fancied a moleskin waistcoat. I'll spare you the details, but I do know how. Rather down the list of priorities at the moment.

25th May 2009

Not a good day. I felt washed out, and it certainly was not any form of over indulgence that caused it. I can only put it down to the mental effort spent yesterday in upgrading Linux. I have become unused to such a long period of sitting in front of a keyboard. I spent the morning doing not very much, quite honestly. Not good. The work piles up and piles up.

After lunch I set about gloss painting the front windows with every intention of doing both frames and the kitchen frame. It was my first experience with Hungarian gloss paint. I don't know what the difference is, but it was like painting with treacle. After one front windows frame I had had enough of that. Before I put the lid back on the paint I gave it a good dollop of white spirit and a good shake up. See if that makes any difference. By the way,do you know how to stop paint forming a skin, even if there is only about an inch left in the tin? Easy. Do what I did - give it a good shake for at least thirty seconds and it won't form a skin on the paint.

I did a bit more of the leatherwork project, which is coming towards completion. And that was the day really.

26th May 2009

A pleasant morning and not too hot. A scything sort of day, so I worked my way scything down the rest of the line of the path from the bottom of the plot to the top. On the way I installed a new staging post for Pickle. Sad, but she is not to be trusted not to escape from the garden and it is far from escape proof. Some of the staging posts are the old water system (dead, thankfully) that runs about half way up the garden. A couple of the new ones are made from the remnants of pipework removed from the house hammered into the ground. Bless her, Pickle is such a faithful soul. She just wants to be near by me all the time. I have to say it escaped me for a while the reason for her constant barking as soon as I got into the grass until it occured to me that my eyes are one metre sixty five off the floor whilst hers are only about sixty centimetres. She was losing sight of me in the grass. I could still see the tops of her ears or her waggy tail, but she could not see me!

The twenty metres or so left to be done once I had installed Pickle on the new staging post only took minutes. I started across the top of the plot in both directions. I worked across towards the other cottage at the top, to find that once I reached the edge someone had strimmered a metre or so right down the length of the cottage down to where I had cleared. Saves me a job! I must thank them when I see them. I returned to work across the other way towards No. 68 and had just started when who should appear but Pickle! Hmmm! That staging post didn't work too well then! I'll have to have a bit of a rework on that one. I secured her to the fence at the top and went back to work. I worked across to the fence of No. 68 and decided it was time for a smoke break. I wandered back to the centre of the fence. Where the hell is Pickle? I could not see her, but the chain was still where I had secured it. I followed it, to find her outside the garden sitting on the verge of the road. She had managed to make a gap in the fence and get out! I dragged her back in, and having suitably admonished her had my smoke. I thought back to last year, and it was at about this time of year that I had my first visitors who arrived to spend several frantic days with three of us working continuously to get rid of the dereliction along the fences to keep the neighbours happy. At least this year it is under control. All of one side is cleared and should be maybe an hour with the strimmer once a month to bash the weeds back, and about half of the other side is now similarly cleared, with today's work still to come.

Smoke over, back to work and I went as far back down the plot on the No. 68 side as I could manage before time and tiredness made me call a halt. I wandered back the way I came, to retrieve Pickle only to find her once more sitting on the grass verge by the roadside sunning herself. Ah well, I suppose the grass is always greener!

We wandered back to the yard and I had the first beer break of the day, quite late. I did a bit of this and that in the yard when Postie arrived. Oh-oh - a water bill. I opened it with trepidation, bearing in mind the freeze up and subsequent catastrophy. It was not a pleasant surprise. An order of magnitude worse than I expected. Thirty seven thousand forints! That's a lot of cubic metres of water disappeared into the ground. I thought to check the meter in case of mistakes, so went to the manhole and lifted the cover. There was, unfortunately, no mistake. The only bright side is that everything was as it should be. I.e. the little wheel on the meter was going nowhere, and I also noticed that since the date of the meter reading I had used less than one cubic meter of water. I pondered the enormity of the bill and decided that a few changes in lifestyle were indicated to cover it. I'll get to those later.

By then it was lunchtime, so I had lunch, as you do.

After lunch it was blisteringly hot so I settled for some indoor work on the leather project. As the afternoon drew on it became more and more sultry and sure enough by early evening the cumulonimbus reared up and the skies darkened. I had the forethought to put the seedlings back under cover and moments later we had a huge storm with lashing, driving rain. I made an unwelcome discovery. Sadly I have to report to one of my very precious plants had finally succumbed. It was what you might describe as the runt of the litter. The one that had germinated right by the edge of the seed tray. It had clung gamely to life but finally was gone - meghalt, brown bread, dead! That leaves me with seven precious plants now, but they are all coming along in leaps and bounds it appears.

The last of the storm was still drizzling down when it was pub time, so the hoeing did not get done. Pity, I quite enjoy that end of the day.

27th May 2009

It pissed down all day! It was pissing down when I got up at about a quarter to six. The village caretaker bloke attempted to strim the verges at seven o'clock and in about ten minutes gave it up as a bad job. I did some long overdue housework instead. You know, since I have been spraying the diatomaceous earth about - on Pickle, and in places around the house - most of the spider population has disappeared. Which is rather a shame, as I like spiders. They tend to trap the nasty stuff that wants to bite me and have it for lunch. I might have to declare a diatomaceous earth free zone for them.

I did a long overdue bottling up of ginger beer. I seem to think that it has been quietly fermenting away since January. At least I have a hydrometer (saccarometer?) now, so I can actually tell when stuff has fermented out, or at least to be OK for bottling.

The rain continued so I did some web-admin-type stuff. On my travels I happened to look at the web statistics for the blog. Inter alia is a keyphrases search statistic. Amongst all the other, expected stuff was a search for "hubertus pigsticker knife". Now what is that all about? But sure enough this site comes up at No. 13 in Google. I know. I just checked. And counted.

It continued raining. As I said in December, the "rain before seven, fine by eleven" thing just doesn't work here! So I did some more woodwork. I have a lot of woodworking projects on hold. None are abandoned, and as time, or priority permits they will bubble back to the top of the heap. There are more, rustic ones upcoming too.

I had been forewarned that the pub would be shut early. I knew not why, but to keep up appearances I shot on up there at about six o'clock and had a swift one (of which more later). Sure enough, there were only three people in there including me. The other two drank up and the landlord started making locking-up-type noises, so I downed mine and went home. Sure enough, he locked the door behind me. It transpired later that something went missing either in the translation or the transmission of the message about the pub shutting, and unknown to me, ensconced safely at home, they reopened some while later for the football match. There was a degree of concern at my absence. "Why isn't Steve here to watch Manchester United get stuffed by Barcelona?" Ah well!

28th May 2009

Well, a couple of days ahead of schedule I completed bashing out all the wretched shrubbery from the border with No. 68. You will recall that I said I would be happy if I got it done by the end of May. Finished today! Pickle got put on the third staging post and did her usual stunt of barking continuously as I disappeared into the under(over?)growth until I battled my way out for a smoke break about half way through. I have a bit of tree trunk by the neglected and overwhelmed compost bin, built in my naivety. I looked across the path to where all the uprooted tree roots once lay. What did I see? Strawberries - bright and red in the morning sun. Small, but nonetheless ripe strawberries. So as well as a smoke I had a nice feast of my own strawberries for "nineses". (Everything here seems to happen about two hours or so earlier than it does in the UK). In the case of the strawberries, what, about two weeks earlier? It came as a salutory reminder of what I face in order to make the most of what was left to me on the land in terms of existing fruit, and the amount of work necessary to take best advantage of nature's gift. The knowledge of how much stuff went to waste last year irks me still!

I went back into the undergrowth, and in quite short order came out the other end. At least I now know that I can bash out the metre and a half of the borders with the strimmer without stumbling over shrub stems or ripping lumps off the strimmer cord. It would be good to do without it but at the moment it is a necessary evil. I suppose I could think about converting it to run on methanol and distilling my own.

I had another go at the G.K Chesterton path after that. I did overeach myself and had to give it best with another couple of metres to go, back towards the house. Overall I am pleased enough with progress. At least this year I have what seems to be working out to be a realistic plan. I berate myself for my physical inability to do more. I don't think that I said that I found the cause of my recent knee problems. I have three athletic (don't laugh!) knee supports. One is virtually unused, bought in the UK just before I came out here. Of the other two I found out that one does, and the other doesn't. Support the knee, that is. So the one that doesn't has been retired. Permanently. It burnt well.

I had to go into town after that, for cash, pay the horrendous water bill and a couple of others and to obtain smoking material. I put into action my new austerity plan to pay for the water bill. Instead of going to the pub, having a beer and catching the bus there, I went to the bus station and went straight into town. Same on the way home. Straight home and glossed another window frame. It was a little better with the paint thinned slightly. It still covered in one coat.

Later, in the pub, I put part two of my austerity plan into operation. I caused a raising of eyebrows with the landlord by "going native". Instead of a beer I had what some of the locals drink - a "piros fröcs". Literally translated, a red dash. A red wine spritzer you might say. At 110Ft (30p) for a half pint glass it is a seriously cheap way of getting p***ed! Most of the locals drink the white wine variety, but I prefer the red anyway. I have to say it is quite heady - three of those in an evening is enough. I am keeping a meticulous account of how much I am saving on my austerity plan. When I have covered the water bill I will make a choice as to whether to resume my former carefree lifestyle or to stay austere. On present showing it looks like I will cover it in about ten weeks. I'll speak a little more of this later.

29th May 2009

An article from Platts discussing research casting into doubt the IEA forecasts for oil.

We had rain overnight. Quite a lot of rain, I think, and the wind rattled the shutters sufficiently to wake me up. The rain is good, of course. My peas continue to swell and it looks like I will have a bumper crop this year. The use of local seeds of course. I make a conscious choice of avoiding F1 hybrids. They don't breed true so the seed from them is useless to grow the same crop the following year. Speaking of which, did anyone catch the article on Indian cotton farmers' suicides? They got themselves tied into Monsanto contracts, using GM seed which meant they had to buy afresh every year, and the resulting destitution has resulted in a wave of suicides.

To keep it short, I did a load of scything and a load of woodwork.

I was headed out at the end of the day to do the hoeing. I had Pickle on the chain and opened the gate into the garden. Pickle caught me out a good one by spotting a cat when I was totally unprepared. There was no way I could hold her so I had to let go. A frantic scene ensued. The dog chased the cat across the garden in the direction of No. 72. The cat scrambled over with Pickle close behind. I was thinking "Oh god, don't let her go through that fence!". The cat ran up the way on one side of the fence, Pickle pursuing the other side of the fence. The cat then went over the fence between No. 72 and the cottage at the top. Then, of all things, it came back over the fence into my garden! It legged it across the garden, Pickle ever closer, but it just made it and disappeared over the fence to No. 68. Pickle crashed about at the fence until the cat was well and truely out of sight. An interesting couple of minutes. When she finally came to heel I hooked Pickle onto the staging post to prevent a recurrence and went back to my task of hoeing.

I had a bizarre surprise in the pub. On the way out of the house I realise that I was short of tobacco, so I grabbed another pouch and stuck it in my pocket. When I pulled it out of my pocket it came to me that it felt a bit on the heavy side. I found out why when I opened it. No tobacco! Instead there was a battery holder, some wires and some LEDs here and there. The tobacco shop had managed to sell me their illuminated display item! So I had to turn round and go home and get another pouch. I'll sort it out next time I am in town.

30th May 2009

Another rainy, rainy day. It just went on all day and it was cold enough that I had to wear the gardening jumper all day too.

I said I was going to speak of it, so I will. As well as the pub, I have carried my austerity campaign into the shop as well. Every day I am buying two less beers and I am (mainly) avoiding the temptation of the odd choccy fix. All goes in the black book too.

I never got into the garden at all. Work was woodwork, leatherwork and updating the blog. Apart from the pub (of course) that was it. There will be a load of photos to come when the current projects are finished. I'll save them until then.

31st May 2009

So now they are all gone! I suppose that the Titanic was somewhere in the youth or early manhood/womanhood of our obsession with fossil fuels. I have lived through the glory days of it, and I fear that I will begin to see the end of it. Unless I drop dead tomorrow, of course. In which case I will never know.

It being bank holiday weekend (Whit, if you are old enough to remember that) I made a concious effort to get up late. Apart from a little leatherwork I did precisely nothing all day.

To make up for it I'll do some random ramblings of stuff that I don't think I have mentioned before. Such as the fact that telly programmes start and end at very odd times. Except the news. That always starts either on the hour or on the half hour exactly. There is one channel (can't remember which) that has a news bulletin at noon. For about a minute before, they just broadcast the sound of the bells backed up in vision with still cartoons of ancient Hungary. The main channel (M1 - Magyar 1, I presume) has a little interlude before the news showing various places around the world, via webcam I think. It gives the weather currently at the particular place and anything of interest that is happening. I quite like that. Anyway, the television programs don't start and end on the hour, or just before to allow for the adverts. M1 programs start at, say, eight fifteen - after some seven or eight minutes of adverts and recommendations, and end at two minutes past nine. How odd! The next program will start at ten past nine. I don't know when it ends, as we invariably get kicked out of the pub before then. I've probably mentioned it before, but the closing time is definitely a movable feast. Easy to spot though. When the telly goes off it's time to go home.

I was a bit worried about "my" swallows. I hadn't seen them for a day or two since they moved house, but sure enough I spotted them flitting in and out, so they are still in residence. The red and black bugs are totally absent this year. I have not seen a one. Neither have I seen an ordinary slug. I found a little conclave of the b*****d brown Spanish slugs though. Five or six of them. I exploded them with salt, and I haven't seen any more since, thank goodness. My snails are OK though. They are merrily chomping away through all the ground litter, of which there is plenty. Colorado beetle are back, but not many. Those that I have found (five or six so far) have been duely squished.

I was sitting on the step the other day having a beer when this huge agricultural tractor towing an equally huge agricultural tanker trailer rolled by. I say agricultural tractor to distinguish between it and a Harley Davidson, of course. OT, I recall someone's "sig" on a forum I sometimes frequent that goes "If I had wanted to deal with retards I would have either worked for the Health Service, or opened a Harley Davidson dealership". Says it all really. The initials also stand for "Hardly Dependable". Where was I? Ah yes. The trailer bore the legend "BAUER - for a green world". Now that has to be an oxymoron! Just what exactly is green about expending ten kilocalories of fossil fuel to get one kilocalory of food onto someones plate? The only thing the "Green revolution" has achieved is to allow the earth to become populated way beyond its natural carrying capacity. Malthusian? Yep. Peak Oil Doomer? Yep! I'll stop there.

And that was May.


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