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April 2010

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1st April 2010

Once again I managed to screw up my cash situation right royally. Again, a bank holiday situation. I needed cash. I knew that I needed cash. I went onto my on-line bank account here, which is very good, and in English, only to discover that I had only three thousand forints in my forint account. Whatever, I had to have cash so I hung out the sign for Posta.

I did some more repairing of earth walls. Posta arrived and I managed to get cash from my Sterling account here in Hungary. No doubt it would cost me at least an arm and a foot.

I was having a sandwich for lunch in the kitchen when I noticed the bird table. Well, the visitors to the bird table. For the first time both Mr. and Mrs. Greenfinch were feeding there together. It seriously cheered me up after the banking debacle.

I reported a bug in the Opera web browser software, then went back to sorting out the vines in the garden.

Pub in the evening. That's it! At least I managed to get into April.

2nd April 2010

It was Good Friday of course today. You know, it still somewhat surprises me that in a predominantly Roman Catholic country Good Friday is just another normal working day. Not that Easter is not taken seriously here. Easter Monday is probably about on a par with Christmas, but more of that later.

The shop had a sale on, as my next door neighbour lady was quick to point out when I met her in there. In true Hungarian style I could not resist a bargain and bought a one kilogramme bag of frozen chicken breasts for the princely sum of a thousand and eighty nine forints. The forint is notionally divided into a hundred fillér, but the smallest denomination in use now is the five forint piece. The shops have goods priced in oddments of forints, but the tills are programmed to use the good old rounding up rounding down system. One, two, six and seven forints are rounded down to the nearest five forints, and three four, eight and nine are rounded up. Since I came here the changes in currency have been that the two forint coin has gone out of circulation and the two hundred forint note has been replaced by a coin.

After breakfast I started on sowing more seeds. Some more tomatoes and paprika, some brassicas, and made a start on some herbs for the herb garden which I have planned but still have not decided where it is going to go.

After lunch was a quick trip to the pub for a single fröccs, then home. I fired up the strimmer, gave the camping lawn a quick haircut, then bashed into the longer stuff up the No. 68 side of the garden. It is growing like mad, of course. I managed about an hour and a half of that. The leg didn't complain, but, by heck, the back did.

I went back to sitting on the doorstep with a beer in the pleasant sunshine sorting out and sowing more seeds.

Pub in the evening - just a normal night, except that ice cream has reappeared in the freezer.

3rd April 2010

For a couple of mornings now I have seen at a distance when I first open up the house a biggish (pigeon sized) black bird in the vicinity of the big walnut tree. It appears to be making away with my livestock - snails! I haven't been able to get close enough to even start identifying it yet. Too big for a blackbird though.

I started on the second stage of the stuff for re-posting the vines. The first of the wooden cross pieces. Not a lot to do actually, just plane the ends down so that they will go through the slots in the posts. Then I went back to the seeds again. I'll post a list once I know what is successful and what is not.

After that, lunch followed by another quick fröccs in the pub. A bit of a repeat of yesterday, actually, as when I got home the strimmer came out again and I had a whizz round the yard and a bash up the half of the garden by No. 72. I didn't get as far as I did up the other side, but that was deliberate. I wanted to stop where I stopped for a reason - more later.

More seeds, then a load of cooking. The chicken had thawed out for a day and needed to be dealt with. One half went in the oven (three big chicken breasts) to be simply cooked to be used for cold sliced chicken. The other half went in a pot to start making pie filling and the basis of a stew. At least it all got cooked.

I had the first of the roasted chicken in a big doorstep sandwich before I went to the pub.

There was most definitely a holiday atmosphere in the pub. Not that they stayed open late. Well maybe fifteen minutes later than normal.

4th April 2010

Another Easter holiday day, and in the best traditions of holiday days I did not do that much. I had a small mountain of washing up to do from yesterdays cooking. That got done. Certain parts of the house had got - how shall I say? - a little "busy", so I unbusied them. Then I settled down a did a bit of long overdue blog updating. I could, of course, not go to the pub of an evening and use that time to much better effect both with updating the blog and maybe doing a bit of studying of magyarul. I could. But I'm not going to. The daytime here in the house and garden I regard as my work, and the evenings in the pub are my social life. Just the same as in the UK, only the work is very different. Satisfying in a very different way. And the pub is the same, only not. Nevertheless, as time goes by I manage more and more social intercourse in there.

In the afternoon I gave the bike some much needed TLC.

What did I have for my early evening meal? You've guessed it - chicken pie. I went to the pub. Neither Hobo or John were there, but my habitual table was invaded by the younger regulars of the pub. Late teens, early twenties. They are a very friendly and fun loving lot, and they seem to have no desire to leave Halogy for bright lights or bigger places. I like that! I was able to have some pleasant exchanges with them.

The evening wound down and there were only four or five of us left when there was - how shall I say - a little local unpleasantness. Well, a red faces and banging on tables type of thing. I won't say between who and whom, but I was not involved. They were still having a go when I left.

5th April 2010

Easter Monday. I had an invite out for lunch and so contented myself with a little housework. Hobo turned up, just to confirm the arrangements. We had a fröccs apiece - all I had in the house - and a chinwag and a smoke. He left and at the appointed hour I went to the pub to meet him. We had a beer and cycled up towards his house. We made a courtesy call at Toni and Eva's where we were treated to a pálinka and a glass of their own wine. Then we headed on up to Hobo's where we had lunch. After a respectful interval we withdrew back to the pub.

I was enjoying a beer when someone who called in said to me "I hope you have watered the neighbouring ladies. They will be most offended if you haven't". Well, I hadn't, so I borrowed one of Hobo's small bottles of perfume which he had been spraying on the ladies all day, popped back to my place, picked up a couple of bits and wandered round to the neighbours. I had just got as far as the gate when a car drew up. It was their son, his wife and the grandson. Tibi answered to door and I presented him with the bits, of which he was most appreciative. Of course I was invited in and given beer and cakes. I watered the daughter-in-law and eventually Marika arrived. She took off her coat but wandered round and round with her hat still on. Eventually the daughter-in-law, who was aware that I still had the perfume bottle in my hand, just grabbed the hat off her mother-in-law's head and I took my chance to "Water the neighbouring lady". Quaint custom. I have since noticed in the shop some of the little bottles, obviously stocked for the occasion.

I took my leave and returned to the pub. The evening was completed with the arrival of John and his parents and we had a very pleasant evening. At kicking out time I excused myself from walking home with them - it is still too far. Me and Hobo had a bit of a chat about some upcoming jobs and then I cycled home. Parked the bike on the path as usual, opened the house, lit the stove, fed the dog and let her out again once she had finished eating. Unvarying ritual. It varied when I did the next bit which was a few minutes later when I went to get the dog back in and put the bike away in the outhouse. I caught my foot under the dog's running wire, tripped, went over the bike and with hands entangled with bike went down hard on the left side of my face. It rammed my specs against my nose and lower eyelid. And it hurt. I gathered myself and bike, shoved it in the outhouse and took myself back to the house in some discomfort.

6th April 2010

I awoke in the morning quite sore and battered. Once up and dressed I had a look in the mirror. Oh yes, I had given myself a shiner! Not pretty. I won't go into details. Shit happens and life goes on.

After the usual morning things I set about transplanting raspberry canes. I was not good but it had to be done. I managed two rows including digging and weeding the soil as much as possible.

Over lunch I felt very rough and became shivery. It came to me that I was actually in shock.

Life still goes on and I forced myself to the next necessary job:
Here is the back of the pig sty. The wall has to go and be rebuilt up to the level of the roof. Back of Pig Sty
Inside The Enclosure And this is the state of the inside of that lean-to.

The wall had to go, and it went. I'll swear it was built using wet earth. As I took each brick off it just fell away. There were weed roots running right the way down inside it, snaking their way through the courses. Fortunately, once I had the first eight or ten bricks off and stacked I had something to sit on whilst doing the rest. Sixty-odd bricks. I did compulsively count them, but I have forgotten now.

I retired to the house exhausted for one reason and another. Never even went to the pub. I did manage a good chat with one of my daughters on the Internet though.

7th April 2010

I did some washing first off. I have to confess that a couple of the items were a little bit long overdue to be washed. One was the zip-up fleece jacket that I had been wearing, when it was cool, for at least a month. The wash water turned black. The rinsing water turned black too for the first three rinses. Six rinses it took before I was happy for it to go on the line. Time consuming and exhausting!

After that I made bricks, and the morning was gone.

After lunch I started on the pigstys. The one nearest the garden was not too bad, so I left it for last. The one nearer the house was a nightmare. It was just full of what I can only describe as crap. Bit by bit I set about it. Loads of miscellaneuos wood were wheelbarrowed into the kitchen wood store. Lots of (useless) plastic bags were hurtled into the garage. I don't think I mentioned that we had this years freebie rubbish collection coming up soon. I missed some stuff to put out last year and it has been in the garage ever since. The stuff from the sty joined it. I found two items of use. One was a couple of bags of perfectly good sawdust. You never know when you will need sawdust, and I tend not to create that much. The other was multiple bags, in various states of burstness, of maize husks. Useful item? You bet - they will burn in the kitchen stove!

Once I had that sty cleared I had about had enough. The other one only had in it a couple of plastic and one steel drums. I dragged them out and hurtled them into the area at the back, towards the garden, which still has to be tackled.

Time was getting on. I had determined to get as far as I did get today but I had had enough. I went in the house and ate, and being too physically tired went to the pub as I was - unwashed and unchanged. Not that it is a stigma to appear there thus. If anything quite the opposite. I searched for the right word, which doesn't spring to mind but I didn't find it. I suppose as near as I could get would be "approbation".

8th April 2010

A rather long Richard Heinberg essay which is nevertheless eye-opening, seriously worrying and worth the read. More doom and gloom to come over the next few days.

I had a busy morning: breakfast, feed the birds (tuppence a bag), more washing, sowed more seeds, set up to make more lye, took yesterdays bricks out of the mould and did a bit more of laying them into the earth wall.

After lunch I went back clearing out the pig styes and outhouse. "Why?" I hear you asking. "For a reason" quoth I. During the course of the afternoon, in clearing out the little yard at the back of the pig styes with the broken down roof that Hobo has promised to fix, I removed five barrow loads of firewood, one barrow load of mixed broken bricks and three barrow loads of, basically, soil. I found a good, sound-ish concrete floor under that lot. How long does it take for five inches of soil to accumulate on the top of a concrete floor? Well, that is the measure of the neglect.

9th April 2010

I spent all day working on the pig sty, so really not much to tell you about. Here are a couple of progress pictures:
Here is the patch of vines with all the weeds now cleared. You (only) just make out some stuff sticking up at the far end of the vines. Raspberry canes! More to transplant at some future stage. Progress on the Vines
Pig Sty Makeover And here is the progress so far on the pig sty. You can see that it now has a nice clean and cleared concrete floor and the old wall has gone preparatory to rebuilding it.

Much later, in the pub, there was a bit of barter. I got a lump of cheese off John, against the promise to make him a picture frame. Works for me. I could not resist having a little lump of the cheese when I got home. Seriously strong Somerset cheddar. Wonderful!

10th April 2010

After breakfast I started on rebuilding the wall to the little yard at the back of the pig sty. The first job was, as always, the laying out. I went to night school to learn bricklaying, only it wasn't night school. It was on a Saturday morning at the local adult education centre. We did a bit of bricklaying - not that much, actually. We had to do a little wall with three or four rows of stretcher bond and also we had to build a pillar, one and a half bricks square. I think he made us do ten courses and then came and checked our work with his spirit level. Strangely enough that was my introduction to lime mortar which was what we used. The reason for that was that we could be building away on the yard for a couple of hours and once we left the instructor just knocked the lot down, hosed the bricks off and hosed the yard down. Lime mortar does take quite a while to go off. After three days you can still get your thumb nail in it. Where was I? Yes, the laying out. One of the main things he taught us at Saturday morning school was how to lay a job out. Measurements are fine in theory but you can't beat actually laying down a couple of courses dry, just to get the feel of it and get the gaps right. So I did. Anyone want to hazard a small guess as to the pattern I chose to lay out in, bearing in mind that this is a two brick thick wall? Might be able to find a small prize!

After that I had to do a bit of donkey work. A barrow load of sand, enough meszhidrat to be going on with, a bucket of water and a walk up the garden to rescue the ex-lid of the ex-compost box to mix on. I remember in the very early days someone laughing and telling me that I would need a lot more than that. She was right, of course. Anyway, the ex-lid was an ideal mixing base, having been made in the shape of a tray with sides turned up at a right angle (ish).

I had run up three courses at the gate end (garden end) of the wall and a single header at the other end to get a line, and was busily laying the first row of headers (clue) when Hobo arrived about noon. He was suitably impressed with the state of the interior of the styes and the little yard. He set about repairing the roof over the yard. My original plan was that this little outhouse was really not worth saving and was destined for demolition, but events have overtaken me. It is now a major priority job.

We worked solidly for about two and a half hours. The leg was giving me serious grief and I suggested that we retire to the pub for a quick one. Which suggestion was obviously favourably received. In the pub I told Hobo that the leg was telling me that it was going to rain. One beer became two, but we were good boys and went back to work after that.

No sooner had we got back to work than it started to rain. Of course, being the brickie, I felt the first spot of rain. You can't lay bricks in the rain, you know. Well, you can try but they tend to just swim about. That's why a brickie will always feel the first spot of rain - so that he can stop work. Hobo continued regardless and enlisted me as his assistant. Within an amazingly short time he had mended the collapsing roof of the outhouse. Well at least the main timbers. Not the prettiest workmanship in the world, but solid and functional. I did get the best of him once though. Where my new wall ends there is a slot cast in the concrete, obviously to take a post. We found a suitable post - one of the ex-vine posts from the garden that was too far gone to put back. It had enough good length in it for this job. Hobo marked it out and sawed across the grain to make the tenon to go into the hole in the concrete. He marked across the end grain for the width of the tenon and prepared to saw down the length - only fifty millimetres, but we are talking acacia wood here. I gently told him no, put the post on its end, got the axe and the hammer, positioned the axe over his marking and told him to hit it with the hammer. Being acacia, it split clean and true down to where he had sawn the cross cut. He looked at me in some surprise, nodded and shook my hand. Well, maybe there is the odd thing that I can teach a Hungarian workman.

I excused myself and went indoors to eat jacket potatoes that had been in the oven just long enough. I really did not expect Hobo to still be here. He carried on, and by the time he did finish he had replaced roof tiles over about a third of the area that had been collapsed and missing.

We retired to the pub together, unchanged and grubby on a Saturday evening. It was a strange evening. To cut a long story short, a certain local character was in there and the local young men were determined to wind him up. Before I even came to Hungary a Hungarian friend in the UK wrote a few things in my little black book, amongst which was what has to be considered a most serious insult in Hungarian involving part of the anatomy of a horse and part of the anatomy of a human being. The young men insisted that I translate it into English for them. It was pointless to refuse, as Hobo already knew that I had it in my little Black Book. So, the young men delighted in being able to tell unnamed character "Horse ***** up the ****"! In English.

11th April 2010

I got up feeling unwell. No, not a hangover. In spite of all the stuff going down in the pub last night I did not have that much to drink. I was shivery and snotty. And it was cold outside. There was quite a strong northerly blowing and it was grey and overcast.

The plan was that Hobo would come and do some work. He didn't show up. The next plan was that we would have a beer in the pub about half past twelve. I went up to the pub and had a beer - no Hobo. The next plan was that we would go to his house and have some food. That didn't work either. He eventually turned up and told me that his mother was in Körmend for the day - hence no food. The plan was also that we would visit a house where the magyar vizsla live. They have cage birds there and Hobo wants me to take pictures. That didn't happen either.

I returned home, with the promise to go up to the football match later in the afternoon and take photos. They love me taking photos.

I returned to the pub at the appointed hour, hoping to get a lift up to the football ground. Once again, it didn't happen, so I cycled my way up there. It didn't hurt as much as last time. The strong northerly wind persisted and I wished I had put another layer on. Once in a while the sun peeked through, and that was a bit better. Once in a while the sun peeked through and the northerly wind dropped. That was actually quite pleasant. At half time the village team were two-nil down and it was not looking good. Early in the second half I absolutely missed a goal. I had only ever seen it happen once before, but the guy scored for the local team direct from a corner kick. The wind just took it and in it went. I watched it all from my viewfinder, and by the time it was all over it was over and I never pressed the shutter release. The visitor's goalkeeper managed to get himself red carded by bringing down the local team's striker when the striker dodged round him. There was a hiatus whilst the visitors decided which player they would sacrifice to get a substitute goalie on. Didn't do them any good as the village team scored from the resulting penalty and won the match three - two.

I dived back home and whacked the photos from today and from the previous match that I shot onto my USB stick and then cycled back to the pub with it. The person I had expected to hand it over to had gone on but I made myself understood to one of the other players and he said it would be back by Wednesday.

There was, in the words of I think Spike Milligan, a general erection in Hungary today. Me and Hobo had been ousted from our normal table by an influx of youngsters so we sat at what I would call the old boys' table. First on the left as you come in the side door. There was me, Hobo, Lajos (fa szakember) and A.N. Other and we were joined by the local fire chief. He was obviously well into it, as every few minutes he was ringing somebody on his mobile and scribbling down figures on bits of paper. I know nothing of the politics of Hungary and intend to keep it that way. A friend of mine in the UK hit the nail on the head when he said "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always gets in!". Have you ever noticed in the UK that the very first thing a new government does is to vote themselves a payrise? Of course, as in the UK, it has been front page news on the telly for weeks. I had had a conversation with Hobo a little while previously when some random politician was giving it large. I said to Hobo "What work does he do?". Hobo came back with some barely understood stuff, and I went back in - "No, no. What work does he do? Does he dig or build stuff, or make stuff or mend stuff?". "No!" quoth I "he does bugger all except blah-blah-blah". Hobo had to agree with me. General erection or no, we still got kicked out at the usual time.

12th April 2010

Hungary had a general election yesterday. And this from The Graaidun yesterday.

Otherwise, no idea! That got rid of the 12th. Except that it rained.

13th April 2010

I promised more doom and gloom and here it is. John Michael Greer on the twilight of the machine age. I got to thinking about photographs. It seriously worries me that digital images are so impermanent. Serious archiving would be a very expensive process. Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron got quite close. There are some stunning colour images of his from the late nineteenth century. If I had to suggest a technology for archiving colour photographs I would go for colour separations (RGB or CMY) printed onto platinotype emulsion on glass. I reckon that would give you a good shot at centuries rather than years or decades, given the correct storage conditions for the emulsion. Whatever, you cannot archive actual colour material. The dyes fade, and they fade at different rates.

Another rainy day. Bugger! For once the wretched forecasters had got it right. I did a load of indoor gardening. I potted on the butter beans into big pots bought for the purpose. Jack and the beanstalk springs to mind. Sowed a load more herbs and made stamped aluminium labels for them. A pain of a job, but once again it is a do once job, hopefully never to be repeated.

Later it cleared a little and I managed a bit more brickwork to the pig sty yard wall. By the way, don't bother answering the question about the brickwork from a couple of days back. It was answered within hours. The brickwork pattern is, of course, English bond. I could have been nasty and built it in English garden wall bond, but I had never laid an English bond wall before, so I just wanted to do it. The Hungarian bricks are a royal PIA though. All shapes, all sizes. I had thought that the Rustics that I used in the UK were bad. Ha! Nothing like.

It rained again later. I retired and did a bit of Internet work. Then I went to the pub.

14th April 2010

Very, very short and sweet today. In the morning I scraped, bashed and chipped the house wall ready for the next making of earth bricks (ongoing) and in the afternoon I returned to the rebuilding of the outhouse (pig sty) wall. I went to the pub in the evening, of course. Nothing happened.

15th April 2010

In an attempt to start catching up, another short and sweet day. I spent the morning and the early part of the afternoon on the pig sty brickwork. Towards the tail end of the afternoon I decided to have another go at photographing Eva's odd plant, which was still residing in my tender care. Knowing what was going to happen I set it up on the kitchen table this time, with the camera mounted on the tripod looking almost vertically down on it. The plant sits in an ex-margarine tub. A small one. It has no drainage holes because it has no need of them. There is no soil or compost. All you have to do is fill the tub with water and the plany springs into life. Well, relatively. It takes about an hour and a quarter for it to do its thing. You will be pleased to know that you don't have to wait that long. In my second ever experiment at time lapse photography I have managed to compress it down to a few seconds. I took one frame a minute. Unfortunately, without a remote release, and as good as my tripod is there are odd frames with a little movement in them, and, inevitably, in my clumsiness, I managed to move the tripod slightly about two thirds of the way through. I downloaded the pictures onto the computer and for the first time in a number of years fired up Animation Shop Pro. I was expecting it to take me some while to do the animation but I found that you could just select a series of pictures and simply go Next => Next => Next => Next =>, and off it went. A link to the animation follows, but a small warning first. It is a big file - some twenty five Megabytes. Please don't run me out of bandwidth by sending a link to it to all your friends! If you want to do that, download it and send it to them as an e-mail attachment. I'm quite fond of it actually. The image quality is fine, it having been shot with a Nikon digital SLR, but the resulting animation just moves about enough to give it an old fashioned feel to it. You will have to click the "Back" button on your browser to get back to the blog - I have enough on just keeping the blog going without writing extra HTML. So here is my effort at time lapse photography. No doubt my resident botanical expert will let us know what it is - I have no idea!

Pub in the evening, of course.

16th April 2010

I can't remember what, but I did a load of cooking whilst I had the stove still lit after breakfast. I can tell you that I had the very first thing cut from the garden to go in it - finely chopped sorrel. The kitchen stove still has to be the best buy that I have made since I have been here. It occurred to me quite recently that it is interesting that I have different fuel requirements for it during the summer and the winter. In the winter, when it is lit a fair amount of the time just to provide heat, I feed it steadily with quite big bits of wood that will burn steadily and keep it hot enough to warm the kitchen but last a long while. In the summer I use wood chopped much smaller that burns up quickly - same type of wood, you understand - and gets the stove up to cooking temperature rapidly and I can then cook and let it go out.

In the knowledge that Hobo will turn up one of these fine days and finish off his bit of the pig sty I wheelbarrowed a load of roof tiles from those in storage into the little yard at the back of the sty. Roofing here is quite unlike in the UK. The roof tiles are held on purely by gravity - no nails - and although each row is staggered the overlaps are minimal. Tile to tile in the same row is about an inch, and from one row to the next is only a couple of inches. They don't get the wind and the rain here like in the UK. A severe weather warning goes out from (can't be bothered to link) if the wind speed is likely to be sixty kilometres per hour. In my dinghy racing days that was just a good blow! I have raced in worse than that.

After lunch I went back to the pig sty brickwork. It was becoming obvious that I simply did not have enough bricks for Hobo's suggestion that I take the wall right up to the cat slide roof level. I had a brainwave as I was walking up the yard. Leaning against the former coal house, which still contains coal and a load of well dried out tree roots, was one side of the former little outhouse that almost abutted the big pear tree. I went and got the tape measure and measured up inside the pig sty yard to the level to which I knew I could build with good bricks. I went back to the one side and measured it up. Perfect. All the rotten wood off the bottom would go. The top would become the bottom to go on top of the brickwork, and the other end including the rotten wood would be sawn off to match up with the roof line.

I did my bricklaying stint for the rest of the afternoon.

With my hands in disrepair once again from all the work with lime mortar I went to the shop, which was by now open for the hour or so in the evening. I mentioned it to the shop lady. Her reply astonished me. "Citromsav!" Citric acid. Well, once home I tried it. Wash the hands and whilst still wet sprinkle a few citric acid crystals on and just run them around until they are dissolved. Blow me down if it doesn't seem to work.

I was just finishing my ablutions in the bathroom when Pickly dog did her ballistic bit. I am a bit remiss about security, figuring that Pickly dog will fix that with most of the locals - the house door was wide open, as were all the other doors. Half clothed I could not really dive to to door to see what was going on. Pickly dog continued to go ballistic and I pulled on the other half of the clothes in haste. I got to the front door to find John there, with Pickly dog at his feet waggy tailed. He explained that he had just faced her down and advanced to my front door bit by bit without any problems. Good-oh! He gave me a couple of bottles of his latest brew. He was on his way to the pub and I followed on not far behind. In the pub he told me that the current closedown of all the airports was Godon Brown's fault - he had asked the Iceland government for cash! Think about it!

17th April 2010

It was a really nice day again. I decided that I needed to do a bit more at the house wall, so I checked out what I had prepared and made a set of bricks to suit. Fortunately I am getting towards the stage where they will all be thin ones. The time factor difference is enormous. It takes about a quarter of the time to make four thin ones than it does four thick ones.

I popped round to the neighbours to ask a favour. I was pretty well out of fuel for the strimmer and took my petrol can round there to ask if they could fil it up when Tibi next fills up his car. Not a problem. He took me to show me the work that he was doing on his tractor. He had the engine out, set up on trestles and seriously in bits. He told me that it was fifty five years old. What did surprise me somewhat was that the engine block was cast aluminium (alloy?). Surprising, because for that age that was quite advanced technology for agricultural machinery. When I started driving in the UK it was only top specification cars that had alloy engine blocks. The rest of us had to make do with cast iron. He was fitting (or had fitted) new big ends. He certainly isn't scared!. I had to take my hat off to him. He was doing this with the tractor half in and half out of one of his outhouses. Everything was spotless. The engine block gleamed. The engine is a beast. Two cylinders, and I am guessing by the size if the pistons and that it is almost certainly a long stroke engine, but I reckon somewhere between three and four litres. I must find out, and I must also find out how he starts it. Again I am guessing, but I reckon he probably hand cranks it up! I exchanged a few pleasantries on the way out with Marika and a visitor who had arrived. We did manage an exchange about the volcano ash cloud.

It was lunchtime by then, so I had lunch.

After lunch I had a thrash round the yard with the strimmer. I still hate it, but I wonder if I could trick it up to run on methanol, lubricated with castor oil. I exchanged pleasantries with Lajos (fa szakember) as he cycled past, and that reminded me of another little job. Hmmmm! Little. Well, I took my newly sharpened panel saw (I think I forgot to mention sitting on the doorstep with a beer and doing that) and sawed down the length of an eighty centimeter piece of oak. Twice. I could go on (more) about saws, but I won't. I chucked the slab of wood on the carrier of the bike and set off towards fa szakember's place. On the off chance I called at the pub. (Yeah, right!) I struck gold, as fa szakember was there, and that allowed me to have a beer whilst doing a little business and explaining my requirements. I was called out, not in the punch-up sense you understand, whilst we completed the deal. I went out of the pub and was taken to the guy that does the rabbits. There was some discussion there, too, and it turned out that I would not have the rabbit skins that I wanted until the next day. I was about to leave there when Lajos cycled up and said "Where's the wood?". I told him that it was by where he had parked his bike. I limped the fifteen or so metres back to the pub, where the wood was still propped up by the bike rails. I limped back the seven or eight metres back to the road, and Lajos has disappeared. Back and grab the bike, and tucked the bit of wood under me arm. I cycled the thirty or so metres to his place and, sure enough, there he was. I was happily propping up the piece of wood by his porch, but he said no, bring it along and that he would do it now. I took it along, and he did. He planed the good side flat, then stuck it through his thicknesser. I hadn't even realised that it was also a thicknesser. It took a few passes and it ended up eleven millimetres thick, which was fine by me. Speaking of which both he and the other Lajos use Vernier calipers. The price? A shrug of the shoulders - beer in the pub later!

I cycled home with my now much lighter piece of oak under my arm. I booted the computer to check e-mails and have a look at the news. I have to say that I was utterly, utterly disgusted to read that Angela Merkel had cried off attending the ceremonies for the recent Polish disaster with the excuse of the ash cloud from Iceland. FFS, are there no trains running? In her position she could commission one. Or she could just go by car. You know, it is only the next door country. Whatshisname Obama I can excuse. The difficulties of getting from the US of A were huge. Angela Merkel, I cannot excuse. Great disrespect! I was going to go off on one about how long it took Herr Hilter to get into Poland, but I won't.

I went back to the pub later and settled up with Lajos.

18th April 2010

Sunday morning, and when I let the dog out I noticed that one of my hibiscus trees had magically grown a gallon of petrol. Must look after that one. The can had a message chalked on it, which translated to 1:40 mixture. I needed to clarify that - was it a 1:40 mixture in the can, or did it need to be made into a 1:40 mixture?

After a bit of housework I popped round to the neighbours. Firstly to return his petrol can which he had very kindly passed over yesterday to keep me going - I hadn't needed to use any. Secondly I clarified the message. It turned out that he had also very kindly made up the petrol/oil mix with some of his own oil. After a chat I went home and carried on where I had left off.

Just after lunch I went along to the pub to check on progress with the rabbit pelt deal. As it happened the rabbit man was in the pub, which was where I checked first. He quite often is. A bit of a temptation as he only lives next door. Next weekend, he told me. C'est la vie. I had the one beer and went home.

I was pottering in the yard when another bit of rabbit business cropped up. In exchange for a little cash a carrier bag of bits of rabbit meat came over the gate. That was about four days worth of main meals sorted for next week, then.

I did a bit of blogging and some computer work for an associate in the afternoon, after which I probably invalidated the warranty on my new (ish) hair clippers by cutting off the moulded on UK-style plug and fitting a Hungarian one. I had got fed up with having to disconnect all from my office extension cable which has a Hungarian plug one end to plug into the wall socket and four UK sockets on the other end into which I plug all my UK stuff: laptop, phone charger, external hard drive, etc. I gave the clippers a road test in the kitchen on the beard, which was getting a little shaggy shall we say.

Pub in the evening. Nothing else noteworthy for the day.

19th April 2010

After breakfast I emptied the brick mould of the last set of bricks I had made. I went back into the house for something and spotted the first problem of the day. Mice! Not computer rodents but the real, furry kind. Multiple copies thereof! I had had suspicions a while ago, and bought a mousetrap from Gazdabolt. Not having seen any sign since I had never bothered setting it. It came out to play today though. They were scuttling in and out of the pantry getting under the door. There was absolutely no evidence of them getting at anything in the kitchen. It's usually pretty obvious - droppings, chewed packets sort of thing. I baited the trap and set it, then placed it just by the pantry door in the hallway. I went into the kitchen for a sit down and smoke. Within minutes "snap" from the hallway. One. I reset the trap, put it back and disposed of a deceased rodent. Then I went back to the house wall repairs, made a mixing and laid the bricks I had taken from the mould plus one left over from last time.

Back in the house for an early lunch and the trap had done its job again. Two. To cut a long story short by the following morning when I got up I had disposed of in double figures of mice. A whole blasted colony of them. I concluded that their forays out from the pantry was fairly recent. It took me a while to figure out what they had been living on in the pantry. Bird food and barley I found out later. The bird food was mixed up lard and various seeds, but the birds much prefer the walnuts. The mice obviously liked it though.

I pondered the next problem of the day. I simply had to do a Körmend run. The puzzle was, do I go by bus, with or without either one or two crutches or what? You know, I tend not to play on it too much but the leg is still seriously not good for a lot of foot slogging round town. Fine here on the estate, I can do all I need to do around the house and garden and getting to the shop and back, but not good in town. I decided to bite the bullet and see how it went cycling into town and back. It was a nice warm day anyway. Not too hot and with little wind. I set off and it was actually rather pleasant. I did bottle out of doing the two big hills on the outward journey and went via Daraboshegy. It puts about two thirds of a kilometre on the trip but the fold in the land that makes the second big hill on the journey is much levelled out by Daraboshegy, being more of a little dip. I was pleasantly surprised to get to Körmend in just forty minutes, and I hadn't pushed that hard.

I saw John at the bus stop waiting for the return bus to the village and called out a greeting as I cycled past. I made several calls around the town centre, cycling between each. I decided that as I had the bike I might as well cycle out and do a Tescos. The most uncomfortable and unpleasant part of the whole thing was the getting around all the aisles in Tescos. Hobo later suggested that I should have cycled round the inside of Tescos. Yeah, right!

On the way home I called in the Halászcsárda and had a beer. Be antisocial not to! Then I cycled back to the village. I had the same choice of routes on the way home. Whichever way I went I had to tackle the drag from where the main road divides up to the plain where you reach Nádasd. It is not too steep but it drags on a long while. After that was the choice of returning via Daraboshegy or going the direct route with its one short but fairly steep ascent. I chose that. I got home feeling a little stiff, but not too bad considering.

I made a rabbit pie and ate half of it, and then out to the pub not that early.

20th April 2010

Lots of doom and gloom for you today! George Monbiot in the Dagaruin on complex societies. And a sobering report from the BBC on population levels in the UK. Thanks for the heads up from Jerry on that one. Also this on the effect the volcano is having on Kenya and its relationship to a Peak Oil future. I'll add a little footnote here for non-UK readers of the blog. You may have noticed my little anagrams of "Guardian". Well, in the days before computers and spell checkers The Guardian was notorious for its bad typography and hence spelling mistakes.

After breakfast a bit of housework which comprised washing up the mountain of stuff from yesterdays culinary delights and putting away the shopping. Then it was out on the garden.

I was determined to get a couple of rows of spuds in by the end of the day. They were to go in the lot of freshly dug ground that had been turned over in the winter digging. I find that the process of digging the trench, earthing up the plants and then digging out the spuds is as good as anything in suppressing the horrid perennial grass and other weeds. However, where they were to go needed a good turning over first. I started in with the spade. I gave that up after about four spadefuls. Out to play came the broad mattock. For the first time this year the specs came off and the perspiration rolled off. I actually quite enjoyed it. I was able to break up the weed roots into someting like one inch slices to a depth of about six inches. The end of the morning saw about two thirds of it broken up. Lunch, and back to work.

Back on the plot and another hour or so saw the breaking up completed. Time to cycle up the village for eggs. I took with me the strange plant, which by now had gone back to sleep, and a copy of the animation on my pen drive. I bought the eggs, and a little carrier bag appeared with a few gladioli corms in as a freebie. I returned home, via the pub of course where I had only the second beer of the day. Must be slipping. I had certainly worked up a thirst.

Back home and back on the garden. The patch I had chopped up was given a good raking over to get rid of as many weeds as possible. Then I returned to the house, took a break for a smoke and gathered up all the stuff I wanted to get in the ground. A line went down for me to dig, or rather mattock, the first trench for a row of spuds. I know that if I don't put a line down by the end of the row I'll be a foot out. Or a foot out in the middle. Making the trench got rid of more weed roots, and in went the first row of seed potatoes. Mine, of course, saved from last year and allowed to chit. I was just making the second trench and it started to rain. I had a look and could see rain teaming down from a shower cloud and thought to myself "Oh-oh, we're going to get wet here!". As it happened we just caught the very edge of it, and it was quite pleasant to be working in. Not enough to get soaked and not cold either. Anyway, in went my second row of spuds. Nineteen in one row, twenty in the other. Fairly consistent, I think it was eighteen in a row last year. After that I put in some more garlics and three of last years onions that are sprouting vigorously to grow on for seed. Yes, I know they are a pain to grow from seed, but they were - still are - such good onions, and hopefully from the three I should get lots and lots of seed. The plan is to start them late October-ish and overwinter them. We'll see.

After that it was back to the house, warm up the rest of the pie, shower and change whilst that was happening, then out to the pub quite late.

21st April 2010

Something completely different today. Nettle beer. Had to be done. I already had most of the ingredients, and the nettles were perfect for picking. Dog, gloves, secuteurs, two carrier bags and up the garden. I did not chose my first patch very well. There were lots of nettles but also lots of grass. Nevertheless I persevered and by lunchtime I had quite a big carrier bag full. Lots of back-achey stretching work.

After lunch back up the garden and get the second bag full. I chose a different spot and managed to find a patch where it was just nettles. That was more like it. I filled the bag in under an hour. Back to the house, and when I unlocked and went inside what hit me was the smell. You know, I never even in all my sixty-odd years realised that nettles had a smell. It is quite a pleasant smell actually. I would describe it as a "clean" smell - almost antiseptic, but not. Not like that dreadful smell you get in hospitals. Almost like the clean smell of clothes freshly washed and dried in sunshine and a good breeze. But not that either. Hard to describe.

The next step simply had to take place today whilst the nettles were fresh. Steeping in boiling water. I made a good fire in the stove and put my biggest saucepan - well the biggest that gets used indoors anyway - directly on the fire with the ring removed from the cast iron hotplate. I freshly filled the kettle and put that on too. The nettle tops went into my biggest fermenter - well, second thoughts, no, not the grape one, the twenty five litre one. Once boiling, in went the water sufficient to cover, and I gave them a good mash around with a wooden spoon. The juice bleached the spoon. Interesting. That was that for the day. Leave to cool and infuse. It was by then towards the end of the afternoon anyway. I wonder what the neighbours thought if they saw me snipping off nettles. Something along the lines of "What the hell is he doing now??" I would think.

Food, pub. At kicking out time it occured to me to ask Hobo to ask his mother where to get tartaric acid, which was the missing ingredient for the nettle beer. He surprised me by telling me directly - either Bödő or the chemists next door. I had scoured Tesco for it on Monday. None to be found.

22nd April 2010

I woke up to a grey and cold morning for all the world looking like rain. When I checked my e-mail over breakfast I found that one of my correspondents had identified the plant for me. It is (alternative names) a Jericho Rose a.k.a. Rose of Jericho. You can read all about it here. What amazes me is that it is part of the brassica family. Well, according to the Wikipedia entry.

I tackled the rest of making the nettle beer which involved straining and squeezing out the liquor from the infused leaves, adding more warm water to bring the temperature up a bit, adding the sugar and stirring until it was dissolved then finally adding the other ingredients, topping it up and pitching the yeast once at the correct temperature. Quite a bit of work.

I had put the sign out for postie as I needed cash. She arrived and I went out to her. As I had been working in the yard, Pickle was off the chain. When I went out to postie she did her normal ballistic bit. I was just getting served when disaster struck. Pickle's manic barking turned to squeals of pain - real pain. I poked my head round the van to see what was going on and found that Pickle had managed to wedge her foot between two of the wooden uprights of the small gate. Really get it wedged. I tried to get the paw out from outside, but Pickle was pressing down hard and trying to pull it directly out. I reached over and held her leg with my left hand, then began to work the paw out the way it had gone in. Of course, I was inflicting yet more pain to poor Pickle who was obviously already in agony, and she did what any dog would do in the circumstances. She gave my left hand a good chewing. I released her eventually. Neighbours had come out into the roadway to see what the commotion was. Of course it stopped once I had released her. I completed my transaction with postie, dripping blood in the roadway. Then I hot footed it into the kitchen where I gave the hand a thorough washing off. Fortunately I still had left over plenty of the antiseptic ointment, dressings and stuff from when the leg ulcer finally healed, so I applied them immediately and then applied a sterile dressing. Time will tell whether my efforts were good enough to prevent the onset of any infection. But, by heck, it hurt.

I went to Nádasd in the afternoon. I bottled out on cycling and caught the bus. I went to Bödő first, and asked them if they had any borkösav. No they didn't. I bought another couple of bits in there - a hundred and ninety five forints worth. Then I went next door to the chemists. A large sign on the door said "Closed", in Hungarian, of course. I looked at a sign on the door with their new opening hours. Open in the morning, then just for an hour between four and five in the afternoon. I took a step back and pondered. Whilst I was pondering the lady from the shop came and unlocked the door and asked what I wanted. She disappeared back in the shop, locking the door behind her. What now, I thought. I hung about again and after a minute she reappeared with a fifty gramme bag of borkösav. Perfect. I told her that that was what I wanted, so she took it away and locked the door again. Now what? Was I supposed to reappear when they were open and buy it? After another pause she reappeared with the bag and with a receipt for the purchase price - two hundred and forty five forints. I had that in loose change so I paid her, got the receipt and the little bag, thanked her and went on my way. You know, she didn't have to open up to find out what I wanted. Another Hungarian kindness. I went over the road to catch the bus back to the village.

In my wisdom, when I got home I decided that injuries or no I should do some work to let the neighbours know that I was doing some work. I got the strimmer out and started on the bit by the fence at one side. I got about halfway up when I noticed a big red splodge seeping through the dressing on my hand. All I had managed to do was open it up again. Stupid bugger!

I went to the shop thus a few moments later. I saw John approaching and he followed me into the shop a few seconds later. I was by then being interrogated by the shop lady and one of the locals as to what had happened. I was just explaining in my best pidgin magyarul when John did come in. I started to tell him in English what had happened but he stopped me - he had understood my pidgin magyarul. I hadn't seen him for a day or two. I turned out that he had been unwell.

Chewed hand or no chewed hand I was still going to the pub, so I redressed it before I went. Of course, I had the same interrogation in there.

23rd April 2010

I woke up to an unpleasant surprise. My hand had dropped off in the night! Well, not quite that bad, but might as well have been. When I woke up I found that not only was my left hand severely chewed but I had also managed in the affray of yesterday to pick up a fair knock to the joint of my right index finger where it reaches the palm. Not good, not good. I can manage fairly well with one index finger out of action, but with both of them out of action life becomes a torment.

That was anything physical right out the window for the day then. If you are up to date with the blog you will know that that is what I did today. All day. So not much to write about on the blog. Wrong.

I'm going to write about how the garden season is turning into a disaster. I have no idea why, but it is. Some of it is my fault, I know, such as the garlics that I put in the garden too soon. A couple may survive but I don't hold out a lot of hope for the others. Tomatoes - disaster! The seeds that I saved from my unnamed ones last year are the best. Maybe a dozen have survived out of twenty or thirty seedlings. The ones that I saved from Hobo's tomatoes last year have died off in droves. I am down to six, and they are not looking good. Ditto Moneymaker. One seedling left. The paprika are doing fine, if a little slow - except for the alma (apple) paprika which have absolutely not played ball and either turned their toes up or refused to germinate in the first place. Brassicas are a total wipeout. Well, not quite total, but out of about forty original seedlings germinated I reckon I might have two left.

I really have no idea what is going on, except that it has been also a very strange spring here with lots of prolonged quite cold spells much later than I expected them. I didn't mention it before but whilst I was photographing the Jericho Rose for the animation the one cauliflower seed that had germinated out of either six or eight - can't remember - curled up its toes as I watched. Quite literally. Within an hour it had gone from being a healthy little cauliflower seedling to being an ex-seedling.

It does not bode well. I will have another go with the brassicas sowing them straight into the ground. I will have a go at getting more tomato seedlings on the go as well. Hopefully the potatoes will grow, and the onions that I plan to plant (sets) in the next couple of days. But then, all my fruit trees are in blossom, including the ones that I gave a serious haircut to earlier. Hmmmm! How does peach, potato, walnut and sorrel surprise grab you? (Assuming I get walnuts this year)

24th April 2010

I spotted this a couple of days ago on the Beeb and forgot to include it. So the airlines think it is everyone elses fault. The absurdity of their claims beggars belief. I suppose that one could say that maybe the phenomenon could have been more deeply studied previously to find safe limits, but it wasn't so the rules were the rules.

I was thinking about the state of things here, and it came to me that it is a bit like real life snakes and ladders. I keep taking a few steps forward and occasionally get on the bottom of a ladder and make a big leap forward in one go. Other times I land on a snake and take quite a few steps back. It feels like that at the moment. Whatever!

I was up early and breakfasted by eight as it had been suggested that I go and take photos of the work that was going on at the football club today. That always seems to be my job - take lots of photos and make them available. I don't mind, I quite enjoy it. There had been posters all around the village for a week or so asking for volunteers. When I got there they were already at it. It was the usual suspects that turned out to help. There was one exception. I won't go into detail but there was one bloke there that I was quite surprised to see. The other notable presence was the village mayor. He certainly is not afraid of getting his hands dirty. When I have a few spare minutes I'll put a little gallery together. That was the morning and a little way into the afternoon gone.

I called in the pub on the way home and had a beer. I was about to supp up and leave and another one appeared. On the house, from the landlord. So by the time I had not rushed the beer that I paid for, and not rushed that one it was a fair way into the afternoon. I was not planning to do any hard physical stuff at home anyway. I didn't want to risk opening up the hand again. It will all just have to wait for another few days.

Once home I mended the front lamp on the bike. It had cracked when I went A over T over the bike when I did my eye, and had finally parted company. The law here is that you must have lights and reflectors front and rear on a bike. Going without is just too like easy money for Mr. Plod, so I decided that today was the day to fix it. The petroleum based contact-type adhesive that I had to hand didn't work, so in frustration I gave it a rough over with wet and dry and slapped a great wodge of epoxy resin on it. It seems to have done the trick.

After that I set out to investigate what was going on with my Sigma 24mm ultra wide angle lens. I had taken it up to the football ground with me and put it on the camera but it didn't work. How can a lens not work I hear you ask. Well, I could see through it OK but it would not talk to the camera body. It is one of those lenses with electronicals in. The camera could obviously detect that the lens was connected but the lens was obviously not sending any information back to the camera body, so the camera sulked and would not do anything. It would not operate the autofocus and refused to acknowledge the aperture settings. Upon close examination it appears to have had a whack. Where or how that had happened I have not the slightest inkling. Certainly not whilst I had ever been walking around with it in the camera bag or on the camera. I will have to investigate further.

Later I had a rather different evening in the pub. As soon as I got to the door, which was open, I could see that Hobo was not there. A chap that I have mentioned previously was sat at what I call the old boys' table and as soon as he saw me indicated to sit with him. I went a couple of steps into the bar only to be greeted from behind - behind the door where I could not see her before - by an Austrian lady who I have met quite a few times. We had quite a bit of a chat before I even got to the bar (in English). She was there with someone else and invited me to sit at her table. I declined as graciously as I could. I would have liked to but I had already said that I would sit with the other chap. He and I had quite a chat also. Anyway both parties left after a short while. I stayed put, and shortly after that Lajos and his drinking buddy came to the table and started playing Snapszli as they almost always do. I still have not nearly got my head around it. One of the odd things about it is that in some circumstances the players can stop with maybe two, three or four cards still in their hands and argue about who has won the game. Very odd. Hobo came in eventually. He was, how shall I say kindly, in his cups. He went and did some business at the table where the younger element sit but eventually, very shortly before kicking out time, we ended up on our usual table. He was even more in his cups by the time we left. He revoked on riding his bike home and set off on a weaving push of it up the village pursued by ribald comments from the youngsters outside the pub. As I write, I can tell you that he got home safely.

Now, I don't normally put gloom and gloom in this part of the blog, and I do normally just include links to the stuff that I find as I trawl to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of energy, as interconnected as it is with the world of economics. I could not resist putting this graph straight in the blog and commenting on it:
World's Liquid Fuels Supply
This has been turning up in more and more places on the Internet over the last week or two. It is the most scarey graph you are ever likely to see. It scares the hell out of me. The scarey bit is the legend "Unidentified Projects". In other words that is the amount of oil that needs to be found to keep production rising to allow for increasing demand and they have no idea where that amount of oil is going to be discovered!

25th April 2010

The hands problems was still preventing me from doing that much serious physical stuff outside. I did a bit of indoor gardening. Sowing yet more seeds to try and replace all the ones that had pegged out. I'll talk a lot more about this tomorrow. I did that first because I knew it would make the kitchen floor dirty. No. Wrong word. Dirtier was what I was looking for. The kitchen is in turmoil. The big room is not too bad, apart from the walnut shells which Pickle scatters across the floor, having either stolen them or been given them by me.

I had another go at unbusying the kitchen and at least a sweep round. Then it was lunchtime.

Lunch at this time of the year is invariably a sandwich and usually a piece of (bought) fruit. Sometimes the sandwich has cheese in it and other times some sort of cooked meat. Anyway, I took me sandwich - it happened to be cheese today - and my apple and settled down to check e-mails, trawl for doom and gloom, see who was insulting me on Facebook... You get the idea. No Internet connection. The modem was fine, the telephone line was fine. I just kept getting a red light on the modem on the LED marked "Internet". It timed out at intervals and went off. The modem would then negotiate, but it always just kept coming up with a red light. Oh well, abandon that for the afternoon then and go and take photos at the village football match.

I didn't take that many of them, either. Most of the action was always in the other half. I did manage a trio of photos of the local guy scoring a goal. Only for it to be disallowed - Off Side! The village lads lost. There was an unexpected fringe benefit to my yesterdays and todays photographic forays though. There was a feast laid on for the football team and all the helpers that did the work yesterday. I was included. It was, of course, pörkölt. Swimming in oil, as usual, and just a bit more spicy than my attempts. It had red meat in it. I really couldn't identify whether it had gone "Moo" when it was alive, or "Baaah".

Quite late we landed back in the village pub for a last one.

26th April 2010

I was up bright and early and in the shop before seven having already lit the stove and put the coffee on. After breakfast the next four bricks went into the mould. I have to confess it was still a painful, and one handed job. Then into the garden.

Today was onion sets and carrots. I managed one row of onion sets and one row of carrots. I still need to put in another row of onions. I adopted a different tactic on the carrots too. I know that it turned out last year that I grew way too many carrots. I put a whole row down, sprinkling the seed as finely as I could. This year I put a whole row down, sprinkling the seed as finely as I could but only for a couple of inches every foot. It was hot and dry work. You know what is coming of course.

After my return I went back to the garden. I had wanted to get the other row of onion sets in but I got waylaid by the state of where the grapevine cuttings and the garlics are. I had to have a serious bash about with the small hoe. It's very dry - we really do need some rain!

As if to confirm my post of 24th April this turned up, with the self same graph and lots of discussion on The Market Oracle website today.

27th April 2010

The dandelions are taking over the lunatic assylum again! Mainly the yard, which was yellow over everywhere. I spent over two hours with the strimmer and took the whole lot right back to the roots. They will come back, of course, but hopefully it will have knocked them back for a few days.

After lunch I had a long, long important chat with someone on Skype.

A friend on Facebook was talking about the gardening and how he would love to have a garden like mine. So I thought about a little introspection on the gardening, as I know that there are various others interested. I published way back last year my best effort at a plan of the plot. The entire plot is three thousand six hundred and ninety five square metres. As you can see, the yard represents maybe a sixth of the area of the plot. Not totally unproductive - it has a number of fruit trees and I have plans for the bits and pieces of the yard that are at the moment capable of being gardened. You know, purely as an aside, it only came to me that all the houses on the bit of the main street that runs east-west are aligned in exactly the same way. The long sides of the houses, and the borders of the plot all run north-south. Likewise those houses that are build on the roads that run north-south have their long sides oriented east-west. So what? I hear you ask. Well, it means that you always know when it is midday, or one pm if they have buggered about with the clocks with daylight saving time. Somewhat useful if your main meal of the day is served at noon (or one o'clock) and you don't have a watch and are out of earshot of the templom clock.

Where was I? Ah, yes - the plot. So removing the sixth of the plot that is yard that leaves of the order of three thousand square metres in the main garden. How do I manage three thousand square metres. Bearing in mind that this is all about using only hand work, hand tools etc, the answer is "With great difficulty". Also bear in mind that my three little patches of garden last year provided me with more than enough potatoes, a mass of superb onions, peas, beans, a particular type of weed, strawberries, raspberries and more other fruit and nuts than I could possibly go through in a year.

So what are my plans? Well, I need to open yet more land. I reckon on about as much again as I have in cultivation, and then I need to think more about crop rotation, permaculture and soil building. The remainder I will roughly divide into three. One third will go for compost, one third for hay and one third for something else!

Enormously hard, I would say. Can one man look after five sixths of an acre on his own. Difficult - very difficult. Especially taking into account all the other stuff that continues - maintaining the house, various other projects and various afflictions. But that remains not why I am here!

The spice rack thing was about as good as I can achieve as a woodworker. I know fine well that I will never be a fine cabinet maker. But then again there are very, very few of them about now that do not rely entirely, or almost entirely on devices powered by electricity. Hmmmm - I don't know. How much electricity will there be about in fifty years. Not a lot by then, I suspect, but I will be long gone. If I get the chance to teach my children and my grandchildren how to mark out a piece of wood and how to saw it, and how to milk a goat and press a cheese I will be well happy. Someone mentioned DIY skills. Having seen the level of what I would call rough workmanship, I really don't think you need to worry about DIY skills. If you can think, and use a hammer and nail it will do fine. Enough introspection. Good Night!

28th April 2010

Not a lot to report today. I had another bloody good go at killing the strimmer. I hope that I mentioned doing by the No. 68 fence as far as the area with the two vines in it that had had a serious workover with the broad mattock. I thought about how I might attack the rest. One border somewhat over a third done, the little path up the middle insofar as it exists done up to the gardening area and the entire western side of the property untouched. Travelling salesman problem - least amount of fuel and just as importantly the least amount of walking. I chose to just walk up to the top, across to the No. 68 fence and thrash my way back from the top to where I had already reached and where I had abandoned Pickle.

A sit down and a smoke and annoy Pickle by saying, sotto voce, at intervals "pussy cat". Tanked up the infernal machine and back to work. I worked my way back up the little (non) path back up to the (non) gate at the top. Of course I could have done that the first time. Why not? Well, because I was not entirely sure how much of the Devil's Excrement I would need to get there and back. The last thing I needed was to be on my feet strimmering for half an hour or so and end up right at the top of the plot with no fuel. Anyway. I had used about two thirds of a tank getting down the side that I had done, so I figured that if I just did a quick "take the top off" of the (non) path I could give the western border a good bashing and get somewhere back to where Pickle and fuel lay before running out. So it proved.

Another smoke, another top up and onto the last bash. Well, not quite. I had quite forgotten to factor strimmer chord into the equation and about ten metres in, it stopped. Strimming, that is. I don't think I have ever said, but the on/off switch long since became a mere decorative appendage. Damned thing runs whether the switch is on or off. I did what I normally do, which is to dig the business end into the garden and stall it. It doesn't take much! Yep - there was about two centimetres of strimmer chord poking out of either side. I took the cassette off and took it back to the yard where I sat on the step for a few minutes and reloaded it from my big spool of strimmer chord. By now in some discomfort (a major understatement), I trudged back, reloaded the cassette, relocated the dog, smoking stuff and fuel, and bashed painfully through the last few metres.

Yes, I know, I push myself too hard. RUBBISH! If Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the age of fifty nine could run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents I am quite sure that a bit of strimming won't hurt me. I met his companion Dr Michael Stroud at our local camera club in Clevedon. Somewhere here (unless I have passed it on to one of my offspring for safe keeping) I have the book that Michael wrote about his adventure with Sir Ranulph when they went right across Antarctica unaided - signed by him and sealed in a plastic bag with lots of silica gell! One of my enduring memories of the photographic presentation that he gave that evening was of him and Sir Ranulph in their tent playing chess with little test-tubes of frozen urine!

John was in the pub later. I reminded him that Saturday was a holiday and the shop would be closed. I also mentioned a photo shoot on the Friday (30th) More to come.

Doom and gloom! Playing with fire. I might not have been saying this, but I have been thinking it for a long while. The search for oil is going into regions where we mere mortal humans simply do not have the technology to deal with it if it goes wrong. Do I need to say more? As I write on this there is much more to come, I fear.

What did I say about not much to report today?

29th April 2010

Some pictures, with descriptions:
Brickwork Inside Sty My bit of rebuilding the wall at the end of the little yard to the rear of the pigsty managed to get completed today. Here it is from inside. As rough a piece of English bond as you could wish to see...
...unless you look from the outside. One course plus two bricks, and that took me all the morning that was left over after the domesticals and part of the afternoon. Oh, the spirit was willing but the flesh was decidedly weak after yesterday's exertions. Brickwork Outside Sty
Sorrel Whilst I had the camera handy, here is my sorrel patch. It can't stay there of course. That little patch of land is destined for better things. Odd thing! In rhubarb you eat the stalks but not the leaves - they contain oxalic acid which is quite unpleasant stuff. In sorrel it is just the opposite - you eat the leaves and the stalks contain the oxalic acid. Back in the UK, not that long before I left I actually had a need of some oxalic acid. Pure, crystal form. Mmmmm - Boots the Chemists. Yeah, right - taken over by Nanny State. "Oh, we couldn't possibly sell you anything like that!". "OK - Bye" I had a wander down to our local Lloyds chemist, just the other end of the town. "Oxalic acid?" "What do you want it for - boat?" "No, some garden furniture to restore." "More or less the same then. I had to ask. How much do you need?" "What do you do it in?" "We start at five hundred grammes, then a kilo, then a five kilo drum..." "...the five hundred grammes will do me nicely thanks!" "OK it will be here tomorrow after about eleven." Well, Boots the Chemists you know where you can stick your Nanny State service! Sorry - went off on one there.
At todays count there are now thirty seven of these. If I get the other twelve that will be a bonus. Baby chestnut trees. I mentioned the project before. Another piece of ground to clear in the next three weeks or so, because these too have to come out from where they are now. Chestnut Trees

Is it really that long since I posted pictures? Tut-tut.

30th April 2010

Unwell. Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze. Head like a balloon again. No idea! I hadn't over indulged last night. I hadn't had any today. I even popped an antihistamine type pill. Didn't seem to do much good. Hobo appeared quite late on in the morning. I had managed to sweep from the hallway into the kitchen. I stopped for a beer and a smoke upon Hobo's arrival. Haha - hahaha! Stopped? I had barely managed to get my act into working frame of mind all morning.

Hobo disappeared out to the sty. I remained miserable. I managed to sweep out part of the kitchen and segregate the inflammable bit fron the dust. The inflammable stuff went in the stove for later. The dust stayed just where it was. Hobo came back to the house to enlist my help.

My part proved to be fairly non-demanding. Hobo was replacing the roof tiles onto the newly restored battens. My job was simply to hand them up to him. I had counted as best I could the two barrow loads that I fetched from the little garage (potting shed). I had already discarded some when I stacked them and Hobo discarded one or to more plus a couple of the ones that were already on the roof. We came up eight short, so I wheeled my wheelbarrow through streets mainly narrow and fetched another ten. In short order the roof was complete. In the midst of all the various happenings Hobo had managed, by way of a shouted conversation the length of the yard, to ascertain that the May Tree would go up at three in the afternoon.

Hobo departed leaving me with a meeting time and place. It left me just a nice amount of time to have a late lunch and then cycle down to John's place to let him know that the erection would be at three o'clock.

I met Hobo at the appointed time and place. In my agitation not to miss anything I cycled on up the hill leaving him there at about ten to three. By the time I had cycled up to the football field I was buggered. Gasping for breath, perspiring profusely and from time to time coughing up bits of lung! John was already there, fotoaparat assembled. I just found the nearest vertical post against which to lean the bike and trudged across the rough grass of the area by the water tower to a sitting down point with just a modicum of shade. The tree was already there, and a hole dug for it.

Within a few minutes the guy that Hobo had held the conversation with at yard distance appeared. I think he is on the village council. He only lives two or three doors from me. Someone else appeared with a bag of goodies - streamers. They had a good look at the tree, and the hole. There was a problem with the hole. The later arrival disappeared down the hole. After a moment he came back out with what, from where I was sitting, looked just like a ball of earth. He placed it down quite carefully just five or six metres from the hole. Now what was that all about?

More people turned up by the minute - lots of them the usual suspects: Hobo, Miki, How-Do-You-Do Laci, etc, etc. They started in on decorating the tree:
Decorating the May Tree Of course, right at the very top went the red/white/green!
They did the top of the tree as it lay there, which I guessed was destined for the west side. They needed to do round the rest of it. A bicycle was commandeered and used to prop the tree just the right height off the ground. You can't really tell from the picture, but they did use applied physics to ensure that there was enough angle of lean on the bicycle to ensure that the tree component of the force diagram was parallel to the angle of the bike. Applied Physics! Wonderful! The thinking man's approach to making life just that little bit easier down on the farm. May Tree Propped Up With Bike

More people turned up. Some more helpers and some just watchers. The guy that had gone down the hole went back to where he had layed down whatever it was that he had laid down. Satisfied, he went back to the decorating of the tree. Curious, I went and had a look at what it was that he had been inspecting:
Hedgehog It turned out to be a hedgehog that had managed to launch itself to the bottom of the hole for the tree, probably during the night. He had rescued it and had come back to see if it was OK. It was. This photo was taken whilst it finally made its dash for freedom into the cultivated field. I was not alone in monitoring the progress of the hedgehog. Several others came by, including a father with his little daughter (maybe somewhere between two and three years old) just to make sure that she had the chance to see the sündisznó!

Anyway, work proceeded and it was time to erect the tree:
A rope and a bit of manpower... Up Goes The May Tree
Up Goes The May Tree ...and after a bit of shovelling and tamping there it stands with no other means of support. Anyone want to hazard a guess at the height? I don't know.

On a sadder note, we were watched from over the road by a little abandoned dog that has taken shelter around the football clubhouse. It has been there a few days now. Someone suggested that it had been left behind by mistake. I don't think so. As I write it is still there and still alive. Sadly, I think it has been quite deliberately abandoned. It looks to be quite a pleasant and social little dog too. It is the sort of little dog that so long as it has food and water would stay there forever waiting for its owner to come back. There are many, many good reasons why it may be impossible to continue to keep a pet - dog, cat, whatever - but there is absolutely no good reason to take a faithful little animal, take it out of a car or whatever and tell it to stay there until you come back, knowing full well that she will stay there until you come back and knowing equally full well that you just are not going back. Despicable!

All the actors in the event drifted off in their different directions. Hobo had his bike to hand. I had camera kit at one part of the grounds and bicycle about as far away as it could possibly be. Hobo enquired "Pub?", and cycled off down the hill. I managed another new experience. I had just retrieved the bike and got my leg over (the bike!) when a car appeared from the direction of Nádasd and stopped by the road junction when he saw me. I scooted the bike over and he wound down his window and to my astonishment I realised that I understood that he was asking for directions to Felsomarac. To my even greater astonishment I was able to give him directions - with just a little bit of sign (I typed sigh then - Freudian slip?) language. The cherry on the top was that he understood me, thanked me and went happily on his way.

Slightly delayed I joined Hobo in the pub. I was still sniffly-snuffly and with a head like a melon. Hobo suggested a cause. Oil-seed rape. Everywhere nearby is bright yellow with it at the moment. Including three sides of the football field/water tower area, and, thinking about it, last weekend I had actually stood amongst it to get some of the football field working party shots. Today I had been within a couple of metres of it following the progress of sündisznó. I had the one and went on home.

I had the makings of a pie and I was quietly determined to use those makings. And so I did. I did not do it justice! I managed about two thirds of what I would normally eat. Nothing wrong with the pie. Me being off-colour was the problem.


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