Too hot, baking and vegetables.

Not much writing progress this week I’m afraid. That story that was begging to be written hit a dead end. I do have another rattling about in my head though and I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

The problem at the moment is that it’s just too hot to be bothered. Only I’m having to be bothered because it’s weather like this that makes everything grow. Instead of writing (or doing all the non-existent day job work) I’m either in the garden or on the allotment. I can only go into the polytunnel at night it’s that hot (49 degrees C yesterday, fully ventilated). Still, I can’t complain, I’m not going to starve anytime soon.

In the past week I’ve lifted the onions and put them out to dry. I’ll bag them up tomorrow, or at least that’s the plan (I’ll do it before I check my work email, that way I’ll get it done).

I’ve being harvesting spuds, cabbages, beans, peas, carrots, courgettes, salad, rhubarb and soft fruit. I’ve also being baking bacon and egg cake (it’s a pie, but that’s what my nana used to call it) and making jam. The chickens are laying eggs faster than we can eat them.

Anyway, back to hopefully a little bit of writing and, in the meantime, here are some pictures of some fruit and veg.

Incidentally, I’m still waiting on that submission that is close to overdue. Fingers crossed.

Work, vegetables and submissions

Right, so at last I’m back at work, though only partially. I’m part-time apparently, though as I was already part-time I suppose I’m now part-part-time-if-and-when-needed-or-indeed-if-and-when-can-be-bothered.

Happily Mr Johnson is still making up a big chunk of my wages.

And, more happily, it leaves me plenty of time for writing and gardening, and blogging, which I don’t seem to be doing as much of as I intended too. It’s simple, I’m blogging mostly about writing and gardening, but they are the things I do most of, so mostly I am doing them, not blogging about them.

This week I have hand weeded two thirds of the plot. You’d think it would be well tended after all this time off but the constant cycle of heavy rain/heatwave has conspired to make a lot of things, such as lettuce and spinach, bolt for the sky, and has allowed the weeds to burst out like an invading army of alien greenery.

That army has mostly been put to rout, but my forearms and back are paying the price and there is still a third of the plot left to do. Hopefully, weather and work permitting, that will get done tomorrow.

Still, we’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh fruit and veg. It’s that time of year where all I buy from the shops is the stuff that’s bad for you. My Tesco Clubcard history must have me down as a chocolate bingeing alcoholic who never lets the taste of fruit or vegetables pass his lips in summer.

Most meals for the past few weeks have been made with home grown fruit, veg and eggs. The only thing I have to buy are things like flour and oil and meat, rice and pasta, anything overly exotic like peaches, pretty much anything I can’t grow myself.

Tonight we are having roast chicken with spuds, onion and cabbage from the plot and freshly pulled carrots from the polytunnel. The herbs are from the garden and the left over chicken will make a stir fry with green leaves and mooli, carrots, broad beans and herbs and the very last scraps will go in an omelette as the chooks are laying eggs faster than we can eat them (which means a lot of cakes too). Pudding will be caramelised rhubarb muffins, all week.

On the writing side, I’ve plotted a new short story and have submitted my first attempt at historical fiction, a short based upon my genealogical research. I have had trouble finding places to submit to as there aren’t the lists and websites to turn to as there are with Sci-Fi and fantasy. Ideally I’d like to find a British magazine to sent it too.

Anyway, the new short will be fantasy and, as said way up above somewhere, I’m going to get on writing it.

 

Submissions, working-ish, heat and eggs.

Well, just when you think you’re done with world building and plotting, you think of something else to weave into the story. So I’m adjusting my plot to thread another storyline in there which will marry up with the MCs storyline and lead nicely into the second part.

Anyway, I’ve submitted to both last quarter and this quarter of Writer’s of the Future (this quarter’s was the one from the workshop), and I’ve got a couple of short stories out doing the rounds.

I’m close to done with a historical short I’ve been playing around with and within a couple of weeks that world building and plotting should be done and the story started. I’m even thinking of doing a historical novel, though I might see how the short goes first before I put too much effort in.

It does seem though that I’ll still have plenty of time on my hands. Most people are back at work now, but I’m on something called Flexible Furlough, which means I’m doing bits and bobs from home, but not actually going in to work (though I do have a meeting next week, on my birthday of all days).

On the non-writing/work side of things, the plot is looking nice and clean and tidy, things are growing well, though this heat has made a few things bolt. The polytunnel has been getting up to 42C during the day, which is close to the Australian outback (going by my favourite programme at the moment, Outback Opal Hunters), though things are looking pretty good there and all the forthcoming salads might well do my waistline some good.

And finally, the young chooks are starting to lay, well one of them, though she did try to savage me when I picked up her egg. Marens, I’ve discovered, can give you quite a nip, and this was the shy, timid one.

Finished novel and short, writer’s workshop, fences and brassicas

I’ve just heard from work that I’ll be furloughed for the whole of June so I should have plenty of time for writing. So much so that I’m having to plan things out a bit more than usual.

I finished off that novel I’ve being talking about. I’ll let it sit and stew for a bit while I work on the next big thing, though I’m still world building and doing character studies for that.

I’ve just finished another short that I think is just right for Writers of the Future, and that is now going to sit and stew too.

Once I think they’ve both stewed enough I’ll start editing them. In the case of the short that’ll be a few days, the novel will be a few months, maybe not until I have a first draft of the next one.

I have also signed up for a free writer’s workshop that WotF are doing online, so that should last me the month out. Hopefully by then I’ll have my world built and will have started writing the thing at last.

I’ve also been pretty busy in the garden and on the allotment. My neighbours put up a new fence so I took down my old panel thing. The panels, much to my surprise, were still in good condition, so I sliced and diced things and made a compost and pot store out of them as well as repairing the old fence at the bottom of the garden. It all looks quite tidy now.

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On the allotment, just about everything is in and growing reasonably well, though a bit of rain would help (anyone know any chants?).

I put up the brassica cage, which is huge this year (about 24ft by 12ft) and filled it with all sorts of brassicas. The beans and squashes are also in, the onions and garlic are all doing well and the carrots have mostly germinated.

An overnight frost managed to nip the potatoes and a few brassicas but the potatoes will recover and I have a tray of spare brassicas to fill in the gaps. I’m not fussy about everything in a row being the same thing, so I’ll end up with a hotchpotch of cabbages, kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and sprouts.

Wordcount, lockdown and clean fridges

Well, we’re in our ninth week of lockdown I think, though I keep losing track of time, so I might be wrong. I hardly know what day of the week it is sometimes, but it is doing wonders for my writing, my garden and allotment, and the state of my fridge.

I’ve been averaging a couple of thousand words a day, plus doing a bit of world building and plotting for the next masterpiece.

The allotment is clean as a whistle with hardly a weed in sight, as is the garden. My fridge has never been cleaner.

But it’s the writing that I’m most pleased with. After quite a long hiatus and a stressful few years, I seem to be finally getting back into the swing of it.

I just need to stop playing Elder Scrolls, then I might double my word count.

Digging, Writing and New Chooks

Well, as I said in the last post, I’ve been working on my next Writer’s of the Future entry. I’m about half way through I reckon, but I’ve also been making time to do the gardening.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time at the allotment, now that there’s no actual day job to do, and dug in the green manure ready to plant this years crop of brassicas. To just quickly catch you all up, I have the spuds in, the onions in, the broad beans are just starting to show, the garlic is marching along like no one’s business and I’ve sown the early carrots.

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In the photo you can see where I’ve started turning over the green manure. It was heavy work. All that heavy rain we had compacted the soil and then the recent dry weather set it hard. Since I took that photo I’ve dug the rest over though, so all I need to do now is get the framework up for the nets.

In the garden I’ve gone and done something I said I wouldn’t. I got some more chickens. I only had two brown hens left, and one of those is six years old nearly. I kept saying that I wouldn’t get any more but, after tidying out the shed and discovering that I have enough supplies, sans feed of course, to last me a few years, I thought it’d be cheaper to get some more chooks than to dispose of it all. By supplies I mean things like worming powder, feed supplements, mite spray and chicken tonic. They’re all quite expensive when it’s all added up.

Anyway, I got three marens, little grey and white speckled things. They’re not quite at point of lay yet and they’re only half the size of the brown hens but they’ll soon catch up. At the moment they’re busy sorting out their pecking order so some are a bit skittish. I’ll try and get some decent photos when they’ve settled down.

Anyway, the plan is to polish of that WotF entry in the next week or so, then to start polishing off that novel I mentioned.

Keep safe.

Back Again.

It’s been a while, I know, but I’m back again. I vanished for a while after the WW1 Project finished. I found myself wandering, inside my head anyway (anyone who knows me will know why this happens now and then), stuck on the genealogy and thoroughly blocked in the writing department. On the gardening side, well, I live in England and it’s rained almost solid for close to half a year now, so there’s not been much tell.

And, well, now this horrible Covid 19 thing has come along to muck things up, I find I have an awful lot of time on my hands. Though not for long, I hope.

Anyway, while I’m furloughed, I’ve caught up with the gardening, parked the genealogy (I really have hit so many walls that I think I’ve done as much as I can), and decided to try to get the writing back on track. I’m going to try to get two things going at once, perhaps three. I have two ongoing novels, both of which have stalled, and a plot and a lot of world building in progress. I’ll need to decide which one to put the effort into, and I’ll do that while I’m trying to put together an entry for Writers of The Future.

Along with that I intend to write up what I found in my genealogical exploits. I actually made a start on that a while ago but, like a lot of other things, it’s been sat bubbling away on the back burner.

So, in the coming days, expect some posts about gardening, writing and perhaps the odd, stir-crazy rant along with whatever practical notions I come up with whilst cooped up like one of my own chickens (at least they get to run around outside all day).

Nice to be back.

Just a Quick Catch Up

I’ve been a little busy again lately, what with all the rain recently, the allotment has needed quite a bit of attention, but I’ve still been researching and hitting the library shelves. I’ve also been doing a bit of writing.

I’ll have something to post on the research front shortly, having just finished another life for the Treasure House WW1 Lives project, but for now a small addendum to my last post. I finally got those death certificates from the General Register Office and can say that my great grandfather died of stomach cancer and its attendant complications and that my great grandmother died of tuberculosis, which her second husband, and great grandfather’s brother, also died of, having caught it during WW1. And that pretty much wraps that particular branch of the tree up, until I discover something else anyway.

The writing I’ve been involving myself in is my great love, fantasy fiction, though I don’t do the grand Tolkienesque stuff, mine is less serious. If you only read this blog for the genealogy and historical research then you might not be interested (though I enjoy both), but you can get a taste for it by taking a look at Tales From Under The Bridge or The Long Way Home, two of my many self published books, a collection of short stories and a novel, respectively. The link goes to a Smashwords shop, but there is no obligation to buy, you can read a lengthy sample for free. You can see a full list of my books by following the link in the main menu above.

I am currently working on a novel which involves the world of the trolls, fairies, goblins and other odd creatures that dwell within many of my books.

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Data Protection (oh and fairies, yes really)

I know I said this post would be about my allotment, and it is, kind of.

I’ll start at the beginning, and my first allotment which was a starter plot, half the usual size. I outgrew that and moved on to a full sized allotment four years ago. This new allotment was a proper mess at the time and took a lot of cleaning up. I have no transport and no way of getting waste from the allotment to the local tip and so I ended up with lots of sacks of rubbish to get rid off.

Over the years I’ve taken it home a carrier bag at a time and binned or recycled it piecemeal but, up until last week there were still about four large rubble sacks full, all rapidly degrading, against the end of the shed. So I was quite surprised when I got to the plot at the weekend to find that the whole lot had disappeared.

Only it hadn’t, not completely anyway. I found it dumped by the allotment gates, along with piles of other rubbish from other, newly, cleared plots. Having asked the site rep what was going on I was told he didn’t have a clue either. I presumed it was a new plot holder, perhaps confused by the layout of the plots and thinking they were clearing their own plot (the ones either side of mine are empty), but the rep didn’t know of anyone new. Anyway, ignoring the suggestion to simply put it down to the rubbish fairies (dumping it where it was is technically fly-tipping), I contacted the local council.

It wasn’t them either, but there was a new plot holder, who they contacted and, apparently, it wasn’t them either. In short they told me not to worry about it, the council would clear the mess away, and that was an end to it.

So, why is this post entitled Data Protection? Well, that was at the very end of the conversation. I asked them to let the rep know about the new tenant (right next door to me by the way), and they replied that they couldn’t. They were not allowed to tell him that there was a new plot holder because of data protection.

I know, I know. You spotted it too. They told me!

I gave up on the conversation. It was starting to go around in circles anyway and I didn’t really fancy explaining data protection to them. They could have told the rep, they could have shared things like names and contact details with him, he technically works for the council, albeit unpaid, and the information is vital for him to run the site properly. If he doesn’t know who has a plot, then how does he know who should be there?

Anyway, I have in the end decided that it really was the allotment fairies, who the council will now clear up after and will, under no circumstances, ever admit to the site rep that they even exist. To protect their personal data, obviously.

Chickens

I’ve been keeping chickens for a few years now. They used to get a regular mention on my old blog and, as I’m between research projects at the moment (I’ll be starting something new next week), they’re going to show their faces here too.

I’ve six at the moment. Three are about four years old and the other three have only been with me for a couple of weeks now are just at the point of laying and have, finally, settled in.

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Settling In

Settling in new chickens can be a noisy and violent affair. Chickens are pretty nasty, vicious things at the end of the day, to each other anyway. It’s always best to add at least three to a flock, one on it’s own is going to get badly beaten as the pecking order is re-established. Always make sure you’re there to step in if things get too nasty and keep some anti-peck spray and gentian violet spray to hand. The first to stop any really bad pecking and the second to treat any wounds. I know it sounds a bit wild and cruel, but it’s in their nature and it’s what they do.

In this case all six chickens piled in for a fight that lasted mere seconds until only one of the old birds and one of the new ones were left battling it out. I kept an eye on them until one had run off in submission then left them too it. With the exception of the odd noisy reminder now and then, things calmed down almost immediately and they have now all settled in. The old bird who was in charge before still is.

One took a little longer than the others to realise that the big box with the perches was where she was supposed to sleep, not on the top of a gate in the main run. After a couple of nights of picking her off her preferred perch and putting her to bed properly, she finally got the idea. It’s normally best to introduce them at night to avoid this problem by putting them straight to bed but, by necessity, I had to put these new birds into the run first thing in the morning.
Infirmary

Chickens always get ill and mine are no exception. You can always tell when one is under the weather. They kind of hunch up and tuck their heads in. I call it assuming the position. If they are still enough and not eating it’s usually a sure sign they’re about to fall off the perch altogether (chickens have a habit of dying at the drop of a hat).

I noticed one of the new birds looking a bit slow and fed up, her breath a bit raspy. She was still eating and I had to put effort into catching her, so she wasn’t about to drop dead, but her breathing sounded awful, a kind of bubbling rasp, and her eyes were filled with foam. I’d never seen this before so looked up the symptoms. It turned out it could have been either Gape Worm or a simple respiratory problem (ie: a cold). Either way, a sick chook needs to be isolated from the rest of the flock. So into the polytunnel she went, in a makeshift cage (which wasn’t as spartan as it looks in the picture). I checked her throat for worms and she was clear, so I cleaned her eyes with antiseptic wipes and gave her food and water with chicken spice and poultry tonic and left her to it.

The next day she looked and sounded a lot better. The day after she laid an egg and tried to break out of the cage. Her raspy breath was back to normal and her eyes were clear. I just wish I could shake of a cold so easily. Anyway she went back in with the rest of the birds, all better, and then another came down with the same symptoms. This second bird was one of the older ones and shook off the cold overnight. In fact she did break out of the cage and I had to chase her around the polytunnel, though I forgot to close the door so she put herself back in with the rest of the flock. I guess she was feeling better.

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Next post will probably be the last life I researched, or perhaps something Grow Your Own related, or maybe both.