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February 2010

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1st February 2010

After the usual start to the day I was absolutely determined to get the wretched pantry door to close. Much chiselling, planing and bashing about followed. I finally got it so that the door would go right into the frame without anything catching. Only to find that the catch wouldn't catch. The door is twisted in the vertical anyway but there is enough spring in it to be able to force it into the frame aperture. Nothing new in a door in this house being twisted in the vertical. The prevailing attitude of the previous owners was that if a door would not close because it stuck somewhere, instead of fixing whatever it was that was causing the door to stick they would just force it as closed as it would get and hold it closed with a bent nail. Hmmmm. Long term effect is that all the doors are twisted!

Where was I? Ah, yes - the catch wouldn't catch. I measured up and found that the house has sunk about a centimetre measured over the width of a door frame. I hope that that was before the house was pinned. I reckon so. I have seen no evidence (touch wood, etc.) that the house is currently on the move. Anyway, it meant that the catch plate on the frame was a centimetre out, hence the catch not catching. The catch plate was held in by two screws and one nail. Why? Why a bloody nail? All was considerably painted in, and the only way to get the screws out was to chip away the paint from in the screwdriver slot. It took a fair amount of welly. It took even more welly to persuade the nail out, and then the final lot of welly was chiselling out the frame to allow the catch plate to be recessed into its new, correct position. The welly progressively took its toll, and finally a lump of what had been perfectly sound plaster some fifteen inches by four parted company with the wall in the area immediately adjacent to the catch plate location. Ooops - sorry Hobo. Of course in retrospect I should have made the door fit first. Anyway, it fits now in spite of having to have a bit of a shove to get the catch to catch.

Well satisfied with my victory over the pantry door and frame I celebrated with a healthy lunch. Fried eggs, bacon, chips and fried bread. Lovely! After lunch I set about the next item. The little stove for the outhouse. I manhandled it into a suitable position and had a ferret around the estate for some stove pipe. I did my memory casting back trick to recall where I had seen some. I went to where I thought it was. And there it was. Told you it works. It proved to be the right size for the stove too, but there was not enough of it. There was an elbow and a short straight bit. Not enough. I was certainly short of one elbow and once I had measured up I found that the short piece of pipe would not reach far enough up the chimney brickwork to get to where it actually became a chimney. Below that it was solid brickwork.

A very quick change followed and I legged it to get the bus to Nádasd to get the bits I needed. It was a bright day and the weather had improved all day. I took scarf and gloves but did without the hat. I found myself at the bus never having put the gloves on. The fares had gone up today. Sixteen and two thirds percent increase on the trip to Nádasd! Ouch. I compounded that by managing to alight from the bus without my very expensive (top side of fifty quid) winter gloves. Fortunately I had taken no more than a couple of steps before realising. Equally fortunately he picked a passenger up there otherwise he would have been gone. I managed to stop him from leaving the stop and retrieved the gloves. The visit to Bödő was, as always, a pleasure. They are such a pleasant, helpful and polite couple of guys in there. I had time for a beer in the little pub over the road, and time for another when I got off the bus in Halogy.

I only had the one and it was only the end of the afternoon when I left the pub but the temperature was plummeting. Fortunately I had firewood sorted, so I lit the big stove, made a quick bite to eat and left the by now cold kitchen to its own devices.

Later, back in the pub, Hobo went off on one to me and John. There's not a lot escapes the villagers. I had said to Hobo a while back in jest "If they see me picking my nose at that end of the village" pointing to the bottom of the village "they know about it at that end of the village" pointing to the top of the village "in an hour". His one word reply - "Igen!" (Yes). Tonight's soliloquy was to the effect that if the villagers don't see us about they worry about us. Which is nice. Apparently my neighbours know my every move. Well, I have to say that I hope they don't quite know my every move. I don't have a problem with them knowing how many bottles of beer I buy in the shop, or in the pub. I make a conscious effort to live my life without knowingly offending and at the same time always to exchange greetings and pleasantries along my way with all the other villagers. I am most definitely not trying to be the Invisible Man here! I think it's called community!

2nd February 2010

In the absence of anything interesting to say about the morning here are some pictures of my visitors. They are not, on the whole, good pictures. They are the best I can do under the circumstances:
Willow or Marsh Tit I don't know whether this is a willow tit or a marsh tit. The identification is very difficult, and as he/she has their head down, impossible. The main difference is that the one has a neatly trimmed black beard and the other has one like mine :)
The most numerous of my visitors are the blue tits and great tits. Nothing different from the UK there, then, but I enjoy their antics and the differences between individuals. The great tits tend to dive in, grab and scarper. They are great hoverers too. The blue tits are more cheeky. I have one (maybe more than one) that will grab a piece of nut in its claws as big as it can manage then wrap the claw around one of the wires and peck at the nut between its claws until it is all gone. Others will feed for a while on the table and then go away. Blue Tit and Great Tit
Blue Tits and Great Tit The blue tits and great tits are happy to occupy the table at the same time.
The nuthatch is another very frequent visitor. Somewhat more shy than the tits who will feed if I am walking around the yard, but just as cheeky whilst feeding. I have seen pictures on the Internet of them feeding from a persons hand, but they are a bit too shy for that so far, here. Nuthatch
Bluetit OK - this one has been massaged a bit. I would say Photoshopped, but have you seen the price of Photoshop? The mid-range version is only $699! Na! I use Gimp which is available for both Linux and Windose and costs, well - bugger all.

I have been quite surprised by the amount of correspondence that my interest in, and feeding of the birds has generated. Another time I will go into a bit more detail on the species that are around here, but I have to say that this is not one of the better bird spotting areas in Hungary. There are much better. My previous comments about bird populations remain, though.

After lunch I attacked the stove in the outhouse. No, well, I attacked the job of making it into a working stove in the outhouse. I was hoping to replace the short pipe I already had with the long pipe that I bought yesterday. It was not to be. The short pipe and its associated elbow remained firmly as one. I hooked the lot together which worked fine but meant that I had to knock a new hole for stove pipe in the chimney. So be it. I marked the spot on the chimney where I needed to make the hole and then removed the rendering by gently tapping it with my knuckles, as if softly knocking on a door. Bugger! Two square feet of rendering disappeared taking my markings with it. I put the pipework back and marked it again on the bricks. In a few seconds I knew that I had to remove half of this one, half of that one and a little corner off this other one. Yeah, right.

Raking out the mortar took all of a couple of minutes with a blunt screwdriver. I took the ever-dieing drill to the two bricks from which I needed to remove half. A little while later one brick succumbed, with the other half remaining firmly embedded in its sand. The other decided that it would come out complete from the chimney. Ah well, no problem. Whack it with the hammer where I had drilled and drilled it and it would be sure to fall apart where I wanted it to break. So it proved. Unfortunately, when it left the wall the two courses of bricks above decided to follow it. What followed was a tedium of scrapping off bricks, washing and wetting them down, mixing lime mortar and laying the whole lot back. Including the new stove pipe. I ran out of energy, lime mortar mix and enthusiasm simultaneously with just one small piece still to do. A big lump of infilling, but too small to get a bit of brick in. Tomorrow! I was just about to walk away from the job when I realised that the old hole in the chimney still existed - and was now right behind the newly installed pipework. Ah, bollox! Well, I would think about that tomorrow as well.

3rd February 2010

An article by Peter Goodchild which makes very uncomfortable reading. Note what he says in the section headed "Looking Forward" about small communities. Also via an e-mail correspondent sent me this BBC article about upcoming energy shortages in the UK.

I was happily settled in my nice warm kitchen, packing leaves into a press, when the dog went absolutely crackers. It was the "I know who you are, but WTF do you think you are doing here?" bark. I poked my nose out of doors to see the mayor of the village and the young man that fixed my underground water pipe standing patiently outside the gate. I thought they had come to read the water meter and indicated the "akna". The young man held up what was obviously a new water meter and indicated the manhole and then glanced at Pickly dog. He is not overly fond of big dogs. I complied and chained Pickle to the well handle. The young man came in and disappeared down the manhole. The mayor stayed outside. Pickle continued to go ballistic. The mayor said to me "Jó kutya" (Good dog). I replied "Nem, bistos bolond kutya" (No, certainly a stupid dog). The mayor remonstrated with me. No, that is a good dog and she is doing her job! Fair enough.

Within minutes I had a new water meter fitted. The young man asked me if I wanted the old one. I politely told him no, thanks. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't. I know someone that would have taken it to pieces and turned it into a work of art. The one that they did for me is just to my left and about half a metre above my head height as I type, somewhat in need of cobweb removal. Not that I have a problem with cobwebs. Cobwebs tends to indicate the presence of spiders, and the presence of spiders tends to indicate an eradication of flying or crawling insect species. Eee, I'm going back long ago and far away, but me dear old mum allus used ta say "If tha wants ta live and thrive, let a spider run alive". What more can I say?

I made myself a meat and 'tatie pie - Hungarian style. In a blonde moment some while ago, when I was expecting my last lot of (Veggie) visitors I unaccountably bought a tin of what passed for pork. It was the floor sweepings of the pork world! Nevertheless, it went into the mix of the meat and 'tatie pie. Also went in one of the stock cubes that they throw into everything that is vaguely gulyas-like. So, it got made into a pie. By the way, do you know where to weigh a pie?

"Somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie" - groan!!

After lunch I had a wander down to the little market that sets up at the Faluhaz from time to time. In the summer they set up outside but it was in the big hall today. I managed to get a new battery for my smoke alarm which had been going beep at intervals for a couple of days, and another couple of items. Back home I finished off the infilling round the stovepipe in the outhouse and had enough mix left over to fill the damage I had caused to the wall by the pantry door. I left it so that Hobo can put a nice smooth coat of glett on it to finish it off, then I will touch the two repaired spots up with some of the left over paint.

The pub shut at quarter past eight this evening. We didn't even get to see all of the M1 (TV station) news, sport and weather forecast. Telly went off at about ten to eight. I had a conversation with Hobo about work and money. He confirmed what I thought. He has no safety net at all. Quite simply, if he doesn't work he gets no money. I don't know what the situation would be if he were long term ill, but I'm pretty sure that when he hurt his ankle a while back and could not work for several days he simply did not have any money.

4th February 2010

I had a problem with the ADSL modem this morning - again. It eventually decided that it would reboot successfully on about the twentieth attempt. I even changed the ethernet cable and the DSL cable end for end, just in case all the electrons had piled up at one end and that was causing the problem. Once it did finally boot there was another problem. There was obviously a glitch with the electricity supply as it rebooted itself again several times over the next few minutes. It settled down eventually though.

The morning was taken up with doing the washing and packing leaves into a press. It was a good day to do the washing - very cold, but clear and sunny and with just a little breeze.

Early afternoon I got rid of the stuff for composting and collected some mole hill soil in a bucket. The ground is frozen quite solid, but the blasted moles are still running about underneath all over the place and they manage to push a load of fresh earth upwards and out through the frozen stuff. How do they do that? The earth is destined to be mixed with the local compost to use for the next lot of smoking material seed. You will recall that I had a total disaster with just using the compost last year. Not that I am short of seeds this year. I read somewhere that the seed from one set of flower heads is sufficient for at least an acre of crop. I'm not about to crop the whole place with it!

Back in the yard I set to and made the workshop doors fit - again. The wood had expanded - it's not painted yet, and I think the sill might have expanded too. A little work with saw, plane, hammer and various gripping tools sorted that out eventually. As with the pantry door I had to move the catch plate too, but it now both closes properly and locks. Not that I bother locking it, but I ought to really. Then again, anyone trying to get to there would have to run the gauntlet of Pickle most of the time anyway!

I decided that a little test drive of the stove was in order. I had given it a bit of TLC by oiling the door hinges with cycle oil. I know that the oil will burn off, but the oil is graphited so hopefully the graphite should remain. Each door has a circular control for adjusting the amount of air to the stove. They were seized solid, so they had the WD40 treatment. Amazingly, considering how long the stove has just stood outside, they came free after half an hour or so. I lit a small fire in the stove just using a few wood shavings from off the floor. Within minutes I had a nice little fire going. I had a wander outside along the roadside to see if there was smoke coming from the chimney pipe outside - I cannot see it from in the yard as the outhouse roof obscures it. Yes, smoke was steadily falling from the chimney pipe outside. The lady across the road saw me looking, looked across herself, saw the smoke rising and just smiled and nodded as if to say "Good job!". I wonder how many years it is since that chimney pipe had smoke rising from it. Not to waste a perfectly good fire, as dusk was falling I grabbed a little saucepan from the kitchen, went back into the outhouse and scrambled myself an egg to make a sandwich. It was only a little fire that I had lit but there was already some small warmth in the outhouse - along with a nice smell of vaporising WD40! I think I might call that one a success, at last.

All the weather forecasts, both on TV and on the Internet had been predicting snow for today for several days. Not a bit of it! It had been a lovely clear day and in the early part of the afternoon the warmth from the sun was noticeable and reminded me that spring is not now far away. As before, though, at the close of day with clear skies the temperature plummetted once more.

5th February 2010

A December 2009 presentation by Sergio Gabrielli which surfaced on The Oil Drum yesterday. As usual the comments are worth a read - there are quite a few. And another in the series of John Michael Greer essays. I cannot find the original - the LATOC link is broken - so I don't know whether this is the third in the series or another subsequent one or even unrelated. Ah, I have now found the complete series and there are many more than just the two I have previously linked. A weekly essay, in fact. Worth following, if a lot of reading. Thanks LATOC for the incorrect URL which actually points to a non-existent LATOC page but says in text which is also wrong!

I had a senior moment early on. I went to the shop knowing full well it was Friday and once in the shop proceeded to shop as if it was a Saturday. D'oh!

I don't know why but I managed to achieve pretty well nothing all day! Except to get a picture in the outhouse:
Here it is. Two afternoons worth of work. I still have one small repair job to do to the inside of it - there is one small firebrick that needs cementing back into place. Starts to look like a proper old fashioned workshop. I could even mull a drop of wine whilst I work! Little Stove

6th February 2010

How Long Before The Lights Go Out a report in the Daily Telegraph. And Kjell Aleklett on the goings on at Davos.

It had snowed in the night. It was still snowing when I got up. It snowed all day. Once again it was just a steady fall, never reaching what I might call a significant accumulation but again about as much as I have ever seen here. As you might imagine, with everything covered in a new layer of snow the bird table received significant attention. I thought that I glimpsed coccothraustes coccothraustes again, but it was so fleeting that I could not be sure.

It being such a foul weather day I was not tempted into the outhouse. I spent the morning in the kitchen and made another carrot cake. Two hours, including the cooking. I have to say that the carrots that were buried in damp sand and stored in the potting shed are not faring well. I extricated several from the sand that are destined only for the compost heap. Whilst the carrot cake was cooking I sorted out lunch and determined that the rest of the tin of mystery meat labelled dead pig would do to make a bolognese. I had actually thought about it previously and had intended to buy a jar of tomato paste (not quite as concentrated as tomato puree) from the shop but had forgotten to do so and the shop was now shut. I made another unfortunate discovery. Two of my remaining jars of cooked down tomatoes were in ex-coffee jars. In both cases I had sealed them with cellophane. Both had split, allowing the contents to spoil. More for the compost heap! Quite apart from that is the fact that it was a lot of work and a lot of tomatoes to get them reduced to what I had had. I suppose that at this stage it is a case of put it down to experience and use those jars to store dry stuff like peas and beans. It comes to me that in some possible future scenario that would mean going hungry for four days. Not to be contemplated! Put it on the learning curve.

The firewood still had to be done which was not altogether pleasant as it continued to snow and the occasional flurry found its way into the kitchen firewood store. The tile stove was lit very early today - about one in the afternoon. As early as I have ever lit it this winter. I settled down and did some blog updating. About four in the afternoon I had had enough of the Internet and my own company so I went to the pub for a quick one. Which became two when Hobo and I were the only customers in there and the landlord handed out a couple of bottles on the house. You can see where this is going? Yep, it ended up a session. Quite a cheap one actually as more beers also appeared from elsewhere.

Amazingly, when I got home there was still just enough life in the big stove fire to resurrect it without having to relight it. A few walnut shells filled that bill. As a pure aside, it is quite surprising the number of industrial uses there are for walnut shells. I know they burn well!

7th February 2010

I was just slicing my bread for the morning toast when I caught movement in the corner of my eye. I turned, and there he was:
Hawfinch All I had done was to throw a small handful of sunflower seeds onto the bird table as I do every morning as soon as I let Pickle out. As it happened she was back inside for her daily breakfast treat of a few bits of crust off my toast. Oh, glory! I moved as quickly to the camera as I dared, thinking all the time "Stay there! Stay there!" I had to switch the camera on, centre him in the viewfinder and select the right mode for the photo. I had had the camera there every single day, switched on and ready to go, just for this very opportunity. He obliged. I got four pictures whilst he was there. The best two are here.
You have to agree that it is a strikingly good looking bird. I have read it described as "top heavy" and "teddy bear-like". Maybe, but that big head and broad strong beak is built for a purpose. They can crack cherry stones with that. I know what to keep back for next winter that I have just dumped for two years. Hawfinch

That coloured my experience for the whole day. I have to admit that after yesterdays exercise of the cubitus I was feeling rather jaded, but after that it was definitely a case of "Colour me happy" Who said that, by the way? (either name will do)

I started on baking bread. At this time of year quite long-winded, as everything in the kitchen is cold rather than warm. If I keep a big fire going in there all the daylight hours that is still only from seven in the morning until about five in the evening. After that it resorts to the residual warmth in the walls. As I have previously said, it never gets really, really cold in there, but with outside temperatures well into the minuses it tends to start the morning at about the temperature of the inside of a fridge!

Hobo appeared somewhat after eleven. He had said yesterday evening that he would come and glett my bit of wall. He did say half past eight or half past nine. I had a little bet with myself on eleven o'clock. Won that one! He had a smoke and we had a chat then he turned to the business of the day and in short order had my rough repair smoothed over with glett. By the way, he had given me a bollocking for repairing it with meszhidrat. "It will crack...". We have had a little bet on that too - one beer. He will win - it will crack. But then it hadn't had the necessary treatment to prevent it from cracking. More anon. Hobo hung on (over a beer, of course) and waited until the glett had gone off sufficiently and then he painted over both lots of repairs. Saves me a job!

Meanwhile, John had appeared and borrowed my angle grinder. A lock problem, I think - as in lack of key. Hobo was just about ready to leave when he returned it. He reported back that he didn't much like it. Well, neither do I, and I have the scar to prove it. It remains the most dangerous tool I possess.

I baked the bread and turned it out to cool. Hobo was suitably impressed and departed, and I had lunch - the rest of the bolognese from yesterday, with a different type of pasta. Must get some Parmesan cheese though. The local stuff is just not the same.

The woodworking muse is still absent without leave, so I didn't venture into the outhouse, instead choosing to update the blog, as you see.

I popped to the pub just before seven and was home by eight. I was quite pleased to be home. It was a lot warmer than the pub! We did manage to catch the news on the telly. There were scenes of horrific winter weather from elsewhere in the country. As usual we had escaped the worst of it.

8th February 2010

Well, Branson thinks it's coming! Peak Oil that is.

I sent a couple of pictures of the hawfinch to a friend in the UK. I reworked them a bit using Gimp - increasing the contrast and so on. It wasn't until after I had e-mailed them that I realised I had had a senior moment. Before I started buggering about with them they were round about one meg in size. After I had finished they were only 300 KB! And that was the originals. I rebooted into the dreaded Windows and used a bit of software that I have to recover the originals from the compact flash card in the camera. It worked fine. Fortunately it is very good at recovering JPEGs. Unfortunately, in the freebie version anyway, it only recovers JPEGs. Anyway, I got the originals back, but it is a long winded process and took a fair bit of the morning.

After an early lunch I mended the little stove. It needed a bit of firebrick cementing back in and a few gaps made good. I let it go off for a while then lit a little fire to help it go off even more and to dry the stove out a bit. I found another casualty as well. The ash tray in the bottom is absolutely rusted out. I'll have to sacrifice a couple of square feet of my precious store of aluminium sheeting and fabricate a new one.

Whilst the stove was lit I did a bit on another little woodworking project. It involved drilling various diameter holes concentrically down the junction of two pieces of walnut firmly clamped in the vice. I used the electric drill and the set of spade bits that I have. I knew it was not going well by the angle that I was having to hold the drill at in an attempt to make the bits track down the centre of the work. By the time I had done the workpiece was smoking, the spade bit was smoking and the drill was smoking. I unclamped the work and it was an unmitigated disaster - all over the place. The workpieces went straight in the stove. I lost an hours work, and I lost interest for the day.

The afternoon ritual of sawing, chopping and log baskets followed. At least it is exercise!

Later, in the pub (of course), Hobo went into some considerable stitherum about firewood. It was definitely a case of going all round the village to get next door. Eventually I managed to piece the pieces together and what it amounted to was that he had sourced several lorry loads of firewood and did I want one. Now, he knew fine well that I needed another load of firewood as I had already spoken to him about getting more from where the last two lots came. Another stitherum followed about delivery and price. The only thing I got out of that was that it would be March, or if the weather was good the end of February, and it would be "Biztos olcsób" (certainly cheap).

The TV news continued to show seriously bad weather across various parts of Hungary. Petrol has gone up, again. About a pound a litre here, now, which has to be seriously bad news in a country where the minimum wage is about two hundred and forty quid a month!

9th February 2010

It was cold and not a nice day at all. After breakfast I read a few more pages of "Culture Shock - Hungary" (ISBN 981 232 723 1). I came across this Hungarian word in the book - "legeslegmegszentségteleníthetetlenebbeeiteknek". I may have counted in wrongly but I reckon that is forty eight letters in a single word. Makes antidisestablishmentarionism look a bit sick. The text says that it means "for your deeds of utmost ability to withstand desanctification". There you go.

I needed cash, so hung the sign out. I also posted a little parcel to the UK. It was the usual lady and she told me that there was a problem with the machine. Bugger! I had just about got the workshop to decent working temperature and I had to knock it on the head to go to Nádasd for cash. I caught the one o'clock bus, which at least goes to the centre of Nádasd from where it is only a short walk to the Posta. The English speaking lady was not there. Not that it mattered. I got my cash and carefully walked back to the main road. Hmmmm - there is a big difference between Nádasd and Halogy in the present inclement weather. In Nádasd the footpaths are just not cleared, unlike in Halogy. I bought some wood screws in Bödő and after that I popped into the Co-op in Nádasd and picked up a few items that rarely appear on the shelves in the Halogy Co-op.

Back home it was time to do the firewood, so the woodworking project remained knocked on the head for the day. After that it was light the stove, eat, change, pub. No change there then.

10th February 2010

It was snowing when I went to the shop. Not heavily, just gently drifting down. There was enough to warrant me sweeping the path clear out to the roadway on my way out. The old lady next door was doing the same, as were the people over the road. I had lit the kitchen stove and put the coffee on before I ventured out. It was just nicely coming up to being cooked when I got back from the shop.

After breakfast I once again lit the little stove in the outhouse. Whilst it was warming up I had a forage around the yard for the second hand wood which I needed for my first little winter project in there. I managed to locate three or four part boards in good condition that remained from the old gates. They had been covered up with other wood and so didn't get burned. A good job too as they were ideal for my little job which was to make a duck board to stand on whilst working. Just enough to keep my feet off the floor so that they will hopefully not get cold. As I sawed them up the remaining pieces were simply confined to the stove. I did not make a huge fire in the stove anyway. Just enough to take the chill off sufficiently for it to be a comfortable working temperature. I got it finished just nicely in time for lunch:
Duck Board Recycled timber duck board in its place.
And this is how I now get power into there. Extension Lead Through Door

I had pancakes with golden syrup for lunch. Yum! I know that I have mentioned golden syrup on the blog, but I don't think that I ever said that I had to make it. I have certainly never seen anything in the shops that remotely looked like it. Very, very easy. A kilogramme of ordinary white sugar, half a cup of water and a level teaspoon of citric acid. The recipe actually calls for lemon juice, but same meat different gravy as the saying goes. Simply warm it up slowly and let the sugar dissolve and then just boil it until it goes the colour of golden syrup. You can test how sticky it has got by dipping a teaspoon in and letting it cool down.

After lunch I was back in the workshop. I abandoned the idea of making the next thing in two halves and putting them together in favour of making it in one then later splitting it with my finest saw, doing the necessary internal finishing and then putting it back together. It will no doubt end up very slightly eccentric but I see no harm in that. I have got on well enough with it for all these years! The first hole took a bit of doing. A one inch hole straight down the end grain of the bit of wood I had found for the job. That one inch Jennings Pattern bit does take a bit of driving I must say. At least it cuts a straight hole. I'm not entirely sure but I think the timber is peachwood.

It snowed again later with some amount of breeze. The wind was a bit north of east, so the snow was blowing across and slightly towards the front of the house. For one of the only times since I have been here the tile stove struggled a bit. Later I was pleased enough getting snuggled into bed.

11th February 2010

Another article from the BBC which outlines a growing awareness in the general population of how fragile modern society is. I may be a Peak Oil doomer, but I don't hold that we will all have to go and live in the wilds. Just so long as preparations are made. You are reading mine! What really concerns me is the lack of awareness (apparently!) being displayed by many governments.

It snowed and it snowed and snowed and snowed. All day. Heavier and longer than I have seen here. I contented myself with doing stuff in the kitchen. No woodworking today. Parts of the kitchen had become a bit "busy" so I did a load of putting away of stuff where it should be. In between I did two lots of baking - some pastries and bread. On a whim the other day I had bought a small packet of poppy seeds. Well, in retrospect quite a big packet actually. I decided to make a poppy seed plait:
Poppy Seed Plait Turned out rather well I think. Maybe a bit more bottom heat next time.

I started on this blog update after lunch. Towards the end of the afternoon I decided to walk up the village for eggs. It was not a day to be cycling up there! I got the eggs, and as usual was proffered a glass of their rather good red wine. Whilst I was drinking it the lady of the house went to give the pigs some food. When she returned I commented on the number of birds walking or fluttering about in the yard. There were several that I couldn't identify. They strutted about, quite unconcerned about the three German Shepherd dogs galloping and cavorting about. The lady immediately instructed me to come along, and took me into the house to the kitchen. Outside, on the other side of the house to where I had ever been, she had a bird feeder - a proper one. It was hung a little way from the window - some feet. Also hung up in nets were some pieces of dead pig. Well, unrendered pork fat actually. It was a constant feeding frenzy. I saw at least four, maybe five or six, species that I just didn't recognise. I got another glass of the fine red wine and an invitation to return the next morning with all my camera kit to take photos. I spent quite some time there chatting, but eventually took my leave to brave the blizzard on my way back down the village.

I braved it as far as the pub. The snow snowed, the company was good, John arrived and it turned into an evening. Eventually we left. We walked down the roadway on our side of the road where the traffic had run. I noticed John slip a couple of times but then regain his balance. My turn came when we got to the little road by the side of the templom. It had obviously had a bit of traffic coming and going through the day. My good leg shot from under me and I crashed down with my bad leg folded underneath me. Oh, the pain, the pain. I just sat in the snow and recovered for a few seconds. I managed to get up and, I know not how, hobble my way home. John, good chap that he is, made sure that I got in the house alright. What is it about severe pain that causes all logic to go out of the window? In retrospect and in the foreknowledge of what the morning would be like I should have grabbed the crutches. Also in retrospect I should have banged down some pain killers. I did neither. I fed the dog, lit the stove with what small amount of wood I had in the house - I was planning on a quick raid on the woodshed by torchlight - let the dog out, waited a suitable length of time and let the dog in and went to bed.

12th February 2010

Once again I had a pretty grim night, sleeping little. The morning was no better. I did manage to hop my way to the pantry, only partly clothed, and made a first job of retrieving the crutches once again. I could just about bear to rest the foot on the floor. Any movement of the knee was excruciating. Three quarters of an hour to finish getting dressed, mainly involved in just getting into a pair of jeans!

Fortunately I had enough wood in the kitchen to get the stove going. There had been no way that I could have retrieved it from there last night anyway. I made a phone call to Hobo and explained and I asked him to contact Pickle's breeders and tell them that I would not be coming to take pictures of the birds. That was the big disappointment of the day. I had really been looking forward to it. News spread, and quite shortly afterwards Miklos appeared and cleared my paths of a fair accumulation of snow. I treated him to a pálinka and I confess that I had one myself. I gave him a couple of hundred forints for his trouble. By that, Hobo appeared, having delivered my message. He went to the shop for me - no way was I risking that - and then stocked me up all round with firewood. He was doing that when John appeared. He, of course had witnessed the event and had come to check up on how I was. Their concern was quite heart warming.

Eventually they departed. The only worthwhile thing I did all day was to cook. Fortunately I had all ready to hand as I do tend to think about cooked meals a couple of days in advance. I even had beans and peas soaked and ready to go.

The most painful things were either the act of standing up or the act of sitting down. Once I was up and on the crutches I could get about OK. Once I was sat down I tended to just stay there. I dozed off a few times for a few minutes in the afternoon in front of the computer. Didn't get much done. Hobo returned later in the day and checked whether I needed anything, which I didn't. He made sure that I was stocked up on wood. We had a beer together and he went off.

I resorted to the Ibuprophen and was in bed by nine thirty.

13th February 2010

I had had a slightly better night. Not much, but better, and I had been so tired that I managed a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was still a struggle to get dressed but again a bit less so than yesterday. Why is it, I ask myself, that when you sport some disability it's always that that gets injured again? The law of Sod, I suppose.

Hobo turned up and did the wood and the shopping again - diamond geezer! I spent pretty well the whole day on the computer, tidying up my system and doing a fairly big job of which more later. The furthest I went outside was the bird table. I had a strategy. Instead of putting a handful of this and a handful of that at intervals on the bird table I put them in a little jar, put the jar in my fleece pocket, hobbled outside and put the contents of the jar on the table. No buggering about trying to use crutches and carry handsful of stuff at the same time!

I had another good feed of what I had yesterday. Once again I had made far too much so some of it will undoubtedly go into Pickle.

Watched a film and went to bed.

14th February 2010

I was up fairly late but still managed to get the kitchen stove lit and was just on my toast and coffee (the last of the raspberry jam) when Hobo turned up. He went to the shop again for me and then set about the wood baskets. It had been cold again yesterday evening and I had got through quite a bit. Once he had done that, and beer supplies obtained we sat and had a chat, a smoke and a beer. For about an hour. Reminds me of an old signature line of mine on some random forum - "Twenty four beers in a pack. Twenty four hours in a day. Coincidence?" Mind you, the Hungarians do allow for sleep - there are only twenty beers in a case. We were talking about this and that and it came out that someone that I know in the village has neither electricity or water to their house. The electricity is explained by the fact that the house wiring was condemned as unsafe, and as the person could not afford to have the house rewired (£750) they were simply disconnected. I don't know about the water.

It was near enough lunch time when Hobo disappeared. I had an early lunch and then settled in the kitchen to do some more leatherwork. It's not going well, but I suppose on the basis of make it up as you go along that is more or less what to expect. I had to rip down an entire seam, remove some leather from one of the pieces and redo the seam. I interspersed that with reading bits of John's book - "Culture Shock - Hungary". If you want to know what I am up against... No - I'll rephrase that ...if you want to know a bit more about life in Hungary and the Hungarian psyche and so on, it is well worth a skim through if you can get your hands on a copy.

The leg was slightly better today, but I was still pretty well house bound. I could feel deep internal bruising in places on the leg where I didn't even know I had places. Hobo returned, filled the wood baskets and departed. Once again I remained at home for the evening.

15th February 2010

The weather improves. When I let Pickle out it was a lovely morning. With the sun low in the east everything was dazzling white and I looked up into the garden to see my various compost heaps looking like bizarrely placed igloos. I still needed the crutches though.

Nevertheless, I had stuff to do. Life goes on. Unwashed pants, socks, tee shirts and jeans still needed to be washed and bread needed to be baked. I had just started the yeast off for the bread when Hobo appeared. It was not quite a repeat of yesterday. It was on his part but not mine. As yesterday, he did the wood and went to the shop for me. Unlike yesterday, whilst we did have the beer and the chat, I kept an eye on the yeast, weighed out the flour, remembered to add the salt and made a bread dough. Then I sat down for a while for a smoke and to finish the beer of which I had had one swig. It reverted to a repeat of yesterday. Ah, well!

Once Hobo left I baked, and then did the aforementioned washing and got it out on the line. It was still a lovely day - freezing cold, but very bright and with a little breeze.

By six in the evening I was tearing my hair out and the walls were closing in on me! Sod this! Crutches, pain, cold - whatever. I was going up to the pub this evening. And I did.

In my wisdom, when I got home, having fed the dog, etc., I decided to watch a film. It was a war film that I had not watched for some time. I think it was called "Shaving Ryan's Privates". NO, No, no - that one is porn. Something along those lines anyway. I had forgotten how gruesome and how long it was, but determined, I watched it right to the end and piled into bed at about one in the morning. Not good!

16th February 2010

Kunstler on Europe. Note what he says about the UK. Also I see that Branson's lot - the UK consortium of businesses looking at Peak Oil - have made it on to the Internet big time with their prediction of problems by 2015. Too many references to even think about linking. Enjoy it whilst it lasts, folks!

Hobo appeared for a repeat of the last couple of days. I did a bit of kitchen woodwork. I managed to stumble and hobble around the house for a while today with no crutches. Nothing much to report except that I managed some house cleaning. Superficial, you understand.

Hobo returned late in the afternoon and topped me up with wood again. And topped himself up with another of my beers. Blast - that left me short of beer for the evening. Once he left, for the first time for several days I crutched my way over to the shop. The shop lady wasn't there and a guy that I know vaguely by sight was serving. He was serving a lady in front of me, and took some time over it. Eventually that was done and it was my turn. I put my couple of bottles of beer on the counter and he went for a walk to find out how much they were. I told him anyway. In Hungarian.

I went to the pub again, on the crutches, and bumped into my next door neighbours on the way. I don't think they knew about my attempt at the Olympic downhill in Halogy and its consequences. They do now!

17th February 2010

Now here is an ethics question based on this Grudiaan article of a couple of days ago. Straight yes or no answer! Would you stop running your car if you knew that the fuel to run it was causing people to die of starvation elsewhere in the world? Answers on a postcard.

I never heard the alarm this morning. I suppose in a way that was good as it shows that I was at least sleeping soundly enough to hear neither it switching on nor switching off. The leg was particularly painful when I did drag out of bed though. First job of the day - pop an Ibuprophen!

Hobo turned up and did the usual - shop and firewood. I set about patching a pair of jeans. I had never patched a pair of jeans in my life! They are quite old but still serviceable, if on the large size now, but as with all my other pairs of jeans they all go at the front of the thigh just above the knee. I can only put it down to the fact that if I am resting, reading the Internet or stuff like that I always sit with my hands open, thumbs pointing together and the palms on the exact part of the jeans that show the wear and tear. I guess it is the acid from sweaty palms that does it. I can't be bothered to look it up, but I wonder where the cotton gets grown that gets shipped to China, spun and woven into serge de Nîmes, and shipped back to the UK to be sold as Primark's finest at less than four quid a pair.

The pub was sans Hobo for the evening - unusual! That's it for the day.

18th February 2010

Hobo turned up as usual, somewhat later than normal. By the time he had done the shop and the firewood it was time for a beer. We didn't hurry over it and once he departed it was time for me to get ready to go to Körmend. Crutches or no, it had to be done. I could have waited until tomorrow of course, but the weather forecast for tomorrow was for it to rain. Today was quite a nice day and I didn't fancy crutching it around town in the rain, so today it was. I was just about ready when Posta turned up with a little parcel. It turned out to be butter beans, which I had mentioned to one of my visitors. I am going to try growing them. They should do quite well here. They have a long growing season, but so do we.

I ended up cutting it rather finer than I hoped for, so, lunchless, I crutched my way to the bus station. The bus driver of course wanted to know what I had done, so I told him. Once in town I had planned where I needed to go and in what order to visit the shops to do the least amount of mileage combined with the shortest amount of carrying. I started with the haberdashers - two reels of hand sewing thread. My, they would take a bit of carrying! The cellar pub was a most definite no-no. I was not about to chance the sixteen steps down and seventeen back up. Next was the bank for a bit more cash and then I called in the sandwich shop and grabbed some nibbles to keep me going. Next stop was only a couple of doors down from there - the Schlecker drug store where I buy doggie treats for Pickle. Well, it was only a couple of doors down! Gone. Empty, deserted, unlit and without a sign in the window or on the door saying they had moved or were closing. Nothing. Ah well, a rethink on the doggie treats then. Just across the main road to the big Coop in town for coffee beans. They are a bit on the pricey side in there but without plodding out to Tescos (not today, thank you) the Coop is the only shop I know where they sell the one kilogramme bags of coffee beans that I like.

Next the big hit, both in distance and stuff to carry - the Spar shop. About two thirds of the way there I realised that I had blundered. I should have taken another Ibuprophen before leaving home. Whatever! I hadn't and at two thirds of the way there I was not about to turn round and go back empty handed. I called in the market place pub for a beer and a sit down before venturing to the Spar shop. No steps at all at that one. I did the Spar shop, managing to forget one item which I had neglected to write on my list. I did the liver thing again - two thirds of a kilogramme for under a quid. I also treated myself to pork chops. They don't have them all ready as individual chops here. They just hack a lump off a rack of chops. Fine big chops they were too. Two good reasons for buying chops as well. Firstly they were cheap and secondly Pickly dog would get an extra treat of the bones. The back pack was getting plenty heavy enough once packed with the stuff from Spar, so I made my way steadily back to town and called in the Presszo for another sit down. And a beer of course. I just had nice time for that and my two last calls and it would be time for the bus back to the village.

The last two calls were the tobacco shop (Trafik) where the young man also wanted to know what I had done as I was on crutches, and Gazdabolt. I crutched up the steps into Gazdabolt and before I got to the top step one of the assistants had the door open for me. They have assistants like Woolworths used to have assistants many years ago. But not. They do actually pounce on you and assist. If you say you are just looking, that's fine - they will leave you alone. I checked out seeds and selected about five packets and then dragged my assistant along to help me buy some Roundup. I hate buying Roundup, effective as it is. Mmmmmm - Monsanto. MMMMM - Indian farmers committing suicide. I had looked all around the seeds department for onion sets and could not see any. I had given it up as a bad job and me and assistant were on our way back to the checkout when I spotted them. Loose in plastic trays by the watering can department - where else, of course. Assistant told me what the different types were and I indicated the ones I wanted. I told her I wanted about a hundred. She raised an eyebrow,. They sell them by weight. "Oh god!" I thought "She's going to count them". Not a bit of it. In somewhat under a millisecond she had decided that that would be about three handfuls. So that's what I got. I will, in the way of a compulsive counter, get round to counting them, or at least counting the ones I plant. Has to be a lot more than a hundred though. Never mind - less than a quid!

I just had nice time to peg my way to the bus stop where I recognized a number of Halogyi emberek. They were very solicitous when the bus arrived and allowed me to get on first. Back in the village I got off by the pub. All the standing about and waiting for buses and the thirty metre walk from the bus stop had taken its toll so, of course, I went in for a beer. There had been a tentative arrangement with Hobo that I would be on that bus and he had said that if I was he would carry my shopping home. No Hobo. He appeared when I was about three quarters of the way through my bottle of beer, not in any particular hurry. We had another beer, equally leisurely. Darkness gathered outside and soon John appeared, so we had another. I knocked it on the head, hefted the backpack and went home.

19th February 2010

I paid the price this morning for yesterday's venture into town. I was in agony when I dragged out of bed. Ibuprophen, crutches and it eased a bit as I started to move around the house. After breakfast the first job was to sort out the shopping which still lay in the backpack on the kitchen floor from last night. I put the soap factory back into action - still haven't managed to make any soap yet though. Another sitting down job was to mix up some more potting compost. Then it was time for lunch.

I did the liver thing again. I have no idea why, whether it was the liver or the way I cooked it, but it was much better than last time. Exactly as before - liver, onion gravy, mash and peas.

Posta arrived and I had a surprise parcel from the UK. Parmesan cheese in a lump! I had mentioned it on the blog and someone sent me some. Excellent!

After lunch I set about sorting out seeds, as in what needs sowing now, later or whenever. It rained.

20th February 2010

Hobo turned up and went to the shop for me. A good job too, as it being Saturday I don't think I could have managed the thirty bottles of beer for the weekend on crutches. I jest, of course - it was only twenty four ;) I was still in much pain and in confirmation of an earlier post a huge bruise started to appear on the inside of my left thigh. In retrospect, and considering that I am still hobbling about on crutches and am likely to be so for some days yet, I must have been very close to a disaster that would certainly have involved hospitalisation and could easily have put this whole project in jeopardy. Must be more careful in the snow!

I finished off the liver for lunch, today accompanying it with tarhonya. One of my on-line dictionaries has no match, the other calls it egg barley. It has nothing to do with barley apart from the size of it. It is basically a local type pasta made into little grains. The local pasta is made with Hungarian flour and to make it cook like pasta it has to be bound with eggs. The quality is always delineated on the package by the number of eggs used in its production - two egg, four egg, six egg... Eggs per what I know not. Might be that number of eggs per one hundred kilogrammes of flour for all I know. I do know that the more eggs the higher quality (and price).

After lunch I settled in the kitchen to do a little woodwork that was possible hand-held and sitting down. Hobo reappeared and stocked up the firewood whilst I was doing that. As usual, once he had done the wood we settled down to a beer and a chat. I did manage to hobble up to the pub for a couple in the evening.

21st February 2010

Quite suddenly winter has left us. I don't doubt that it probably hasn't quite finished with us yet, but today was definitely quite spring-like. The snow was melting away rapidly leaving the yard a mass of mush and slush - amongst other things. I managed about twenty minutes of clearing up in the yard just on one crutch, but that was enough.

Through the rest of the morning I managed quite a few other little jobs too. Sorting out seeds for indoor sowing, a bit of washing and a bit more on the current woodwork:
Any guesses? I want to get it finished as it is holding up another particular related job. Wooden Tool

Having been here now for close on two years I decided that it was high time that I tried my hand at making a pörkölt. The dictionaries simply translate pörkölt as "stew" but it is a bit more subtle than that. The word pörkölt actually means roasted or scorched, and is a very important part of making this Hungarian dish. Similar to but not the same as a gulyás (goulash). Gulyás is traditionally made with beef but a pörkölt can be made with other meats such as pork, chicken or game. I made mine to a traditional recipe found on the Internerd in English. The two most important steps are the cooking of the onion (lots of!) and the actual pörkölt-ing of the meat. The onion needs to be fried in lots of oil (or lard) for about half an hour - without browning, which is a bit of a challenge. The secret with that is to add a splash of water whenever you think the onion is going to start browning. After that comes the pörkölt-ing. What I did was to remove as much of the cooked onions from the oil as I could, then get the oil good and hot (stir-fry type hot) and whack the meat in and keep turning until it is well seared on all sides. Into the saucepan with the onions it went, oil and all. Add just enough water to cover the meat, lots of Hungarian paprika powder, seasoning to taste and depending upon your adventurousness or foolhardiness some of the strong chilli-type paprika. I put one small one in, pounded to a paste in the pestle and mortar. Simmer until the meat is cooked and tender. That's it. I served it up with some potato wedges done in the oven, and right handsome it was too. Hobo later suggested that for the authentic Hungarian taste I should have added a couple of centimetres of gulyás paste, sold in the local shop. It tasted authentic enough to me. And it looked right - i.e. swimming in oil. Very healthy.

Later, in the pub, the news had scenes of severe flooding in various parts of Hungary caused by the quick thaw. I never even lit the stove until getting home from the pub - the house was still warm. Blimey - and we are only two thirds of the way through February.

22nd February 2010

I'm getting behind again, so I'll make it short. I will try and avoid the four thousand word rambling into utterly unrelated regions. But I can't guarantee ;)

It was another lovely early spring day. I carried on clearing up the yard. After that I went back to repairing jeans. Then some more woodwork. No answers from yesterday? Same project. I'll post another photo presently.

Later in the day I was preparing nokedli to go with the rest of the pörkölt when Hobo arrived to top me up with firewood. He watched with amusement my efforts with a teaspoon. The locals use something akin to a grater that drops just the right amount into the boiling water. Mine were overly big. I wonder what he would say if confronted with a proper suet dumpling? There, I could have gone on and on but didn't.

Much later, I left the pub about half a minute after Miklos. Miki is the character that always wants to do work for me and either never shows up or does something completely different to what I had in mind. I followed him down the street. It was hilarious. I had thought that Pickly dog was the only one that went ballistic at him. Not a bit of it. Every single dog along the way went ballistic. Now, as it happens, they are going ballistic at me because I am on crutches. But they went even more ballistic at Miki. Pickly dog barks at him from the moment he appears - probably a hundred metres the other side of the shop - and doesn't stop barking until the next door dogs lose sight of him and also stop barking.

23rd February 2010

Now, you might be wondering how come it is that, crippled up as I am, I am falling further and further behind with the blog. Well, the answer is quite simple. There are still a multiplicity of things that I need to do, and another multiplicity of things that I want to do. Some of them take the same amount of time as usual. Others take about two, three, four or five times as long. So I'll keep it short.

The leg was a bit better today. As always, the big problem is attempting to maintain muscle tone. It'll come back when I start digging and scything.

I made some more new plant pot sticks in the afternoon in preparation for tomorrow. Walnut, as before, but I adopted a new ploy with a little used relatively new toy. Now walnut plant pot sticks may well be de rigeur, but no matter with what I wrote on them it inevitably descended into undecipherability quite rapidly though the combined influences of wetness, heat and daylight. I used my number/letter stamps to actually stamp the species into the walnut sticks. I bought it on a whim. It was cheap and it shows. There is no way of controlling the orientation of the letters when you stamp them, so although they are in an approximate row they lean to the left, to the right or occasionally, by sheer good luck, they are upright. Never mind - they are legible. I lament the lack of an acute accent stamp though. I'll have to make one. Hobo appeared whilst I was doing that and looked at my handiwork with amusement. He suggested I just use the seed packets like everyone else. I think my answer started with "Ah yes, but...".

It was another lovely warm spring-like day. Once breakfast was over I didn't relight a fire until darkness fell. And that was the kitchen stove, just to warm something up. The cserepkalyha didn't get lit until I got back from the pub.

24th February 2010

The seeds for which I had lovingly made yet another set of walnut stick labels got sown this morning. Lots of different seeds - two types of tomatoes, three types of paprika, leeks, brassicas and more.

I had hung the sign out for Posta to call as I needed cash. I had managed to run myself fairly short and needed to buy dog food from Tarkameny - the van that travels through the village. Gone noon and Tarkameny's arrival further down the village was heralded by Pickle bursting into song. Well, I suppose it is singing but it actually sounds more as if she is in extreme pain. She sings at two different gas vans, two different ice cream vans, Tarkameny, the cake van, the meat van and probably one or two others that I have missed. The only one that plays a tune when it arrives in the village that she does not sing at is Posta. She just goes ballistic if the van pulls up at the gate. Anyway, Tarkameny came and went with me in insufficient funds to buy Pickle her food. Bugger! What happened to Posta? Well, I had to have funds so I did a quick change out of my working clothes with the intention of catching the bus and going to the post office in Nádasd. I got as far as the roadside and looked left and right before crossing the road. When I looked right there was the Posta van some two hundred metres away up the village. At least it saved me a trip to Nádasd.

Having changed out of the work clothes I simply could not be bothered to change back. I settled to do some long overdue Internet work (not blog), and also copied the photos from the last pig killing day onto my pendrive. I knew that the person that wanted the copies of the photos would be in the pub at three o'clock. They are there every weekday at that time for the milk van that comes into the village. I wandered up to the pub and, sure enough, the person was there. I handed over the pen drive. They disappeared and came back a little while later and gave me back my pen drive. BTW, pen drive here == USB memory stick - whatever. Hope they realise that all my Nikon images have EXIF information on them including my copyright! I lingered in the pub for a while. Quite a while. But after the six o'clock news I went home, lit the stove and was in bed shortly after half past nine.

25th February 2010

I was wide awake by half past six. It was barely light. The joys(?) of an early night last night. In and out of the shop by seven. The leg was a little better. I would like to say that it was good but I can't. It was just a little better. Which is a worry as the days continue to be more and more spring-like and I know exactly what is going to happen in the garden in just two or three weeks.

I managed to dodge from job to job. If it was on my feet the limit was about twenty minutes. Sewing, cooking, a bit more clearing up of the yard. Today thankfully it was not dog shit - well not much anyway. Once again the length of Pickle's running lead was a mass of debris. I picked out all the burnable stuff and consigned it to the kitchen wood shed and a load of miscellaneous debris went in the bin. I still have a couple of hundredweight of what I can only describe as hardcore to get raked up and put somewhere. I have plans for the yard. A fence here (dogproof) and a fence there (dogproof) and Pickle can go in the dogproof bit without having to be chained, which I still hate. A couple of days of hefty work breaking up the old asphalt at the lowest point of the yard and the rough concrete underneath - the same stuff that me and Hobo had to hack out to put the new mains water supply in. Now, why the low point in the yard is some two metres away from the concrete channel by the well escapes me. And in any case it is moot, as the old lady next door's drainage ditch down the village has to be about a foot higher than mine, so the water is always going to back up into my yard. But I could really do with not having nine inches of water between my front door and the outhouse. I reckon if I just bash through and loosen up an area of about two metres by one it will just act as a soakaway. Then I want - eventually - to level out the front of the yard and put the whole lot down to grass. Well, not quite level. It would be nice if I could just get a bit of fall all the way to the front gates. Flooding problem solved. Now, where was I? Ah, a bit of woodwork as well.

In the absence of Hobo I got the firewood in myself. A bucketful at a time. Five trips! I was going to speak about making filling firewood baskets an art form, but putting it into a bucket far surpassed the artistry that I ever achieved with a basket.

I needed a beer after that, and for the first time this year I was able to sit on my doorstep in the warmth of the sun and have a quiet drink and a smoke.

Late in the day some stuff about the Export Land Model of oil depletion.

26th February 2010

An interesting article on telling the Roma in Italy about Peak Oil. Some of the stuff that one of the Roma relates back at the end rings lots of bells with me, here.

It rained. It wasn't supposed to rain. The forecast had not said that it would rain. The forecast remains a guessing game. It reminds me of an interview on the telly many years ago when a meteorologist was asked about the accuracy of the weather forecast - "Well, we got it right forty percent of the time!". So the interviewer said "Does that mean that if you had forecast the opposite you would have got it right sixty percent of the time?". It's a bit like that here. Reminds me of when me and my ex were due to go on holiday to Tunisia. We ran a pub at the time. One of our (semi) regulars was a meteorologist. Semi, because he spent six months of the year on a weather ship in the north Atlantic. I suppose they have no need of such things now with all the satelites and stuff. When he wasn't on the weather ship his job was at the meteorological office in Wokingham. No, not head office in Bracknell, a little office in Wokingham. His job there was to track thunderstorms. For an entire month before we went to Tunisia every time he came in the pub, when he ordered his drink he would turn the corners of his mouth down and shake his head in a funereal manner. He was right. It was the worst weather in November in Tunisia in living memory. The hotel football field was flooded six inches deep. Doors blew off the hotel and windows blew in. We managed a single day of sitting in the sun which was about the equivalent of a day trip to Skegness in April. Remind me at some stage to tell you about the horse riding.

27th February 2010

Saturday, and it took me two trips to the shop to get all my supplies in for the weekend in my present state of infirmity. After breakfast I went back to the patching of jeans job. I had a disaster of the measure twice, cut once variety. I carefully tacked a hem on the patch only to find that it fitted neatly, exactly inside the hole I had cut in the jeans. Oh well, it will do for another patch later on no doubt.

I went back to the woodworking job in disgust. I decided that it had to be finished today, as I had also decided that tomorrow would be the day to put it to use. Well, finish it I did:
Corking Tool Nobody got even near it from my picture of 21st February, but I will confess to being a bit naughty by giving no real idea of scale and so on. I hope that you can now identify it with its accessories!

Another, long dormant, woodworking project resurfaced today as well. The unit to stand by the wood stove. I had made up some Aerolite glue for the tool in the photo and decided that I needed to use as much of it as possible before it became unusable - about a week. Another lump of oak was added to the worktop. I had forgotten what a quite substantial lump of wood it is getting to be. Solid oak some thirty millimetres thick. It will only be about two feet by two foot six (six hundred millimetres by seven hundred and fifty millimetres for my younger readers) but it is already at the point of not being able to lift it off the floor when on edge with the grip of one hand. Only another four slabs of oak to add now, though.

I have woodworking projects lined up around the outhouse workshop walls. None is abandoned. I think the only woodworking project that is going to get abandoned is the dog kennel. What's the point when the only time she goes in it is when she is galloping around the yard. In and out at the speed of a speeding German Shepherd dog, and another bit falls off. Destined for kitchen firewood, I fear. I'll write more about the dog when the mood is right. Not now.

I went to the pub. Hobo was absent!

28th February 2010

Today was wine bottling day. Firstly I just wanted to get it bottled and out of the way, and secondly I wanted to road test my latest creation. Out from the pantry came all my wine bottles. They were washed and bottle brushed, then sterilised with some potassium metabisulphate solution. You know, even at my peasant level it is astonishing just how much water you get through in the processing of food. I worry about the areas of the world where they are depleting centuries old aquifers. I worry about here, dependant as we are on artesian water from the Alps.

The new tool worked, but not as well as I would have liked. I identified the problem and resolved to fix it before it was needed next. I must say that the plastic wine corks that I have were just as much of a pain. With the wine bottled up and stored away in the pantry and the carboy washed out and returned to the potting shed it was time for lunch.

After lunch I got on with marking out the next set of joints on the oak thing. The marking out is, quite frankly, a pain. It must take about three times as long to mark a joint out as it does to actually saw, bore and chop out the joint itself. I was just in the process of glueing the next piece of the worktop when Hobo appeared to get the firewood in. He commented on the little arrows all over the worktop. Every single piece of oak has a little arrow pencilled on it. I am very careful to identify which way the oak will plane. If you try to plane oak against the grain the plane will dig in and tear up the surface of the wood. Even machine planing oak has this problem to some extent. Hence all the little arrows. I know exactly which way to plane. Having got in the firewood Hobo asked if he could borrow the angle grinder. I thought that he meant to take it away for some reason and returning later. Not a bit. It turned out that in the course of chopping up some kindling he had found a nail with the ax in the kitchen woodshed - at least twice! As a penance he sharpened all three axes, both mattocks, the little Hungarian style hoe and the shovel.

A little while later, having eaten and changed I joined him in the pub. It was a typical winter Sunday - shut before eight in the evening!


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