Herefordshire Week 063: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 March 2021

COVID Jab Booked. Socially Distanced Coffee. Seeds Sown. Goodbye NOW TV, Hello Netflix.

The week started with a surprise. A good one. Out on the Cockyard circuit on Tuesday morning, I got a text message telling me I could book my COVID jab at EH Surgery, next Tuesday. When I clicked through on the link that evening everything worked like a dream and I got the 9.40am slot.

Herefordshire is really powering through the vaccinations. I think it helps that the County COVID vaccination team did make a really speedy start – most 90 year olds dad and Jean know got their jabs before Christmas, and Herefordshire is pretty sparsely populated too – especially with younger folks in the real sticks.

The roof survived gales overnight Wednesday / Thursday, but we did lose a branch from the hawthorn by the large pond. Lunched in the conservatory on Thursday with rain pattering on the roof, army guns clattering away beyond the woods. Nice and warm. Back to windy and wet on Friday.

Work week went well. VWW and Family Zoom as usual, plus a Wine Zoom with Cat on Saturday evening.

Spent a lot of Friday doing various errands in Hereford: topping up the shitty Asda delivery with a quick whizz around Aldi and a tactical peanut butter strike in Tescos, picking up click and collects from Wickes and B&Q (including bathroom paint, orchid repotting mix, compost & a tom growbag, woodworm treatment), returning my library books, paying in a cheque, collecting CHEESE from The Mousetrap Cheese Shop – and meeting Jean for – literally – a coffee on a bench, in Bishops Meadow courtesy of Coffee Spot Co by Victoria Bridge.

Back for a late lunch followed by admin, including taking over the water bill. Incredibly easy to do online. Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water could teach Scottish Power (more than) a thing or two….. Yes, STILL waiting to be set up as the new owners of the solar panels and payments. I have chased. So tedious.

Plenty of big grey clouds on Saturday morning, but that didn’t deter me from hauling out great wodges of weed from the big pond with a rake, and yanking out mint and flag from around the edges. Even a series of passing hail showers failed to deter me. It did put paid to the plan to go for a walk with Thea and Joe though.

Either side of lunchtime,  I finally got to grips with sorting out the greenhouse and the various garden-related purchases.

Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse Yesterday
Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse

After organising kit, plastic pots, bags of “stuff” and trays, I got to work: repotted my three orchids into larger vessels, then sorted the assorted seed packets into date order and sowed some of the “March starters”: tomatoes (in the covered container), radishes, mixed lettuce (in the larger collection of halved loo roll middles) and poppy seeds from Walton.

Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse Yesterday
Planted Some Seeds and Sorted Things Out In The Greenhouse

The Rocket Micro Greens lucked out, getting sown in the posh pots liberated by the orchids:

Rocket Micro Greens
Rocket Micro Greens

In the afternoon, I converted our old King Size duvet that’s been serving as a tablecloth in the conservatory into a properly hemmed, single thickness tablecloth (one side) and a spare single duvet cover (the other side). Very satisfying.

Took things a bit easier on Sunday. Leisurely breakfast, then out for Camp Crossroads + Cockyard +  Kerrys Gate backwards before returning to polish off leftover tacos for lunch in the conservatory, with a brief interlude when Dad and Jean turned up to collect more paving blocks. Spent most of the afternoon in the conservatory intending to read Michael Wood’s The Story of China, but instead listened to a couple of Speed of Sound podcasts whilst playing Patience on my iPad – I’m not outrageously productive all the time.

Sunny Monday proved perfect for a busy day in the garden getting lots of Jobs Done: wheelbarrowed the weed round to the quarry, watered my seedlings, planted broad beans and peas in the veg patch / herb bed…..

Sowing peas and broad beans: trenches prepped with an old horse manure base
Sowing peas and broad beans: trenches prepped with an old horse manure base

…. prepared the selected spot for the blackcurrant bush dad and Jean are getting me for my birthday, pulling up all the ivy runners, which ended up extending to both sides of the fence, which then turned into “hack back all the ivy that’s grown up over the fence post and remaining wrought iron gate”. And lopping the lower branches off the wild plum tree. Ooof.

With Phil’s help I wheelbarrowed the cuttings / pullings down to the quarry bonfire, and returned with a wheelbarrow load of paving blocks for dad to pick up. A few times. And last, but not least, started dragging some of Richard’s brash up to the bonfire. But stopped when my gammy leg really started to complain…..

In the midst of all the activity we lunched outside, and then Phil ventured up the tall ladders to gaffer tape the fascia corner where we’d spotted great tits sneaking in and out on Saturday, presumably checking out the nesting site potential. NO WAY do I want birds in the loft!

But gazing out of the kitchen window waiting for the afternoon tea to brew, I’m pretty sure we’ve got either a willow tit or a marsh tit visiting the bird feeders….

Marsh Tit or Willow Tit - the Conundrum Continues
Marsh Tit or Willow Tit – the Conundrum Continues

…. to add to the female blackcap and greenfinch spotted on Saturday. The blackcap is a fairly frequent visitor, working her way round the base of the peanut feeder and chasing off any of the other small birds that try to tuck in too.

Female Blackcap Warbler
Female Blackcap Warbler

TV: Finished off Deutschland 89 during the week and then spread Hoop Dreams out over two evenings (it’s about so much more than simply school basketball). On Saturday we said Goodbye NOW TV, Hello Netflix! starting with Stranger Things that night. Uh oh. I’m renaming it Scary Things …. think it might be a bit too  much horror for me. Had to wind down with The Speed Cubers on Sunday night, which was just lovely. Humans at their best. Fell asleep to Kicking and Screaming, and didn’t warm to Superstore.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay, The Allusionist, The History of English, The History of England and Speed of Sound.

Photos: Herefordshire week 63 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-14.

Herefordshire Week 062: Tuesday 02 – 08 March 2021

Foggy and cold; sunny and still. First footpath forays. Blues and bonfires.

We spent most of Tuesday to Friday in low cloud, cold and still, and making me feel like life was even more locked down.

I worked Tuesday morning, taking Wednesday afternoon off to drive into Hereford for my pelvis X-ray (very straightforward, and speedily done – double checking what’s causing my hip pain) and taking the opportunity to pick up some stuff from Wickes, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. We’d done a bulk order from Asda, which got delivered on Saturday night. Awful. Won’t be doing that again.

March is a big month for birthdays. I took delivery of more parcels for Phil, and we picked a celebratory dinner kit. My secret project arrived, as did some Asda photo cards. And Phil got very excited and delighted by the arrival of his professional window cleaning kit. (We now have sparkling windows). Fixed up birthday coffee and cake with dad and Jean on dad’s birthday – when we’ll also be celebrating his second jab. Very relieved about dad’s appointment as I was starting to worry his early first jab had resulted in him getting lost in the system. Looking ahead, I’ve also booked a night at Abbey Dore Pod for my birthday.

Also made tentative arrangements to see other people. I feel that that merits Capitals – See Other People. Taking a week’s holiday ahead of the Pembs weekend pencilled in for the end of May, with Hazel coming for a visit and for a few extra days with Steffi in Far West Wales; and hosting Jess & Co for a lunchtime /  afternoon visit at the end of March.

Walked back from Ewyas Harold on Friday morning – no daffs in Dulas yet but a pair of red kites up on the top of Cwm Hill, and wild garlic leaves down by the ford. Extended the route a little to come back over Thistly Field, exploring a little of the wooded slope. The field is actually much larger than I’d realised.

Lovely weather on Saturday, but cold out of the sun. Short walk down the Dore Abbey, chatting with Thea & Joe and meeting the Man from The Bartons on the way back. An afternoon of odd jobs, tea and hot cross buns.

Got a bad dose of the blues on Sunday and Monday. Who knows why. It can’t just have been the crappy Asda delivery and a woodpecker casualty on the newly cleaned conservatory windows.

Phil and I headed out for a walk on Sunday morning, taking our usual lanes as far as Bacton Stud and then following the footpaths across the fields to Fair Oak. Remarkably straightforward, especially with the maps on Phil’s phone being so much more detailed than even the OS Green Maps. It’s been dry recently too, which meant the mud was at a minimum. Saw another red kite en route, and met the Man from Up On A Hill glampingBattlelands Paintball on the second section of footpaths looping out from Tremorithic Road to the top of Mill Lane hill.

Attempted to get the brash bonfire going in the afternoon. Failed miserably. Had a much better time on Monday, when dad came over (yeah, right, whatever) and helped with a slosh of paraffin. Beautiful day – half wished I was up on The Cat’s Back, although I’d done Duffryn Backwards first thing. But sitting out on the patio for a mug of tea and chocolate biscuit breather was a treat in itself. After lunch, Phil dragged all the brash down that was further up the slope and I managed to get almost everything burned. Just a couple of the big branches escaped their fiery fate when it got too dark. Very satisfying.

Finally burning all the brash....
Finally burning all the brash….

TV: Finished off Justified – we shall return no more to Harlan County, Black Panther, Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina RamirezDeutschland 89 – and a personal favourite Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr, Series 2, Episode 5 primarily because it featured Walton Beach Huts. I am wondering what they’ll actually DO with them now though.

Podcasts: History Extra, The EssayBooks & Authors and 99% Invisible.

Photos: Herefordshire week 62 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-03-07.

Herefordshire Week 061: Tuesday 22 February – Monday 01 March 2021

Log shed roof replaced! Greenhouse finished! Leaky pipe.

It definitely felt like spring arrived this week. We had some gloriously sunny days, and the days are getting longer (as is the grass….). Some of the bigger daffs came out, the camellia is flowering, and the birds have been singing their hearts out.

Spring has officially started: The daffodils are out!
Spring has officially started: The daffodils are out!

Tuesday was overcast and windy, and I spent the morning finishing off my secret project – not a Phil one, I hasten to add.

Work week went OK, and I had the usual VWW and Family Zooms on Wednesday and Thursday. Caught up with Carl on Saturday morning, David on Saturday evening, Hazel on Sunday and a last minute Helen and Hazel on Monday.

Got into the habit of doing my physio exercises too – essentially strengthening my hip / thigh muscles. Too much WFH sitting / inactivity on top of one too many heavy falls onto my right knee? Who knows.

Friday was the start of three glorious days off, and I made the most of the sunny skies doing the Tremorithic route in the morning, making notes as I went. Me at my (al)most poetical…

Beyond Bacton, banks of snowdrops and celandine
…and potholes
Sleepy sheep
Fair Oak – Cat’s back
Slumbering duck
Three sheep. Thee planes. Sky trails.
Cwm Hill
DPD and Watson’s Fuel
New fencing along the straight stretch
Best blackberrying brambles gone!
Bin lorry
Snow drops on the wane at Yew Tree Cottage and Ivy Green
Canns Hill footpath
Three buzzards coasting high

Obviously I didn’t take my camera with me….

Lunch in the conservatory, then a couple of hours work on the greenhouse in the afternoon – evened up the patio slabs flooring with some extra sand, put down gravel around the edges and in the gaps, and glued the staging together – aka the shelves. Now I’m almost ready to start potting and sowing….

Greenhouse floor laid, and level
Greenhouse floor laid, and level

Saturday morning was a complete white out, but that didn’t stop Phil and I from heading out into the mist to replace the roof of the log shed. Actually, Phil did pretty much all of it so I can’t take any credit.

Montage: Phil reroofing the log shed
Montage: Phil reroofing the log shed

That took the whole morning – but the sun came out (my face is a bit pink…) and we ate our fried egg sandwiches for a late lunch sat outside on the patio, and spotted a bat flying around in the conservatory! It had either flown in while we weren’t looking or had been hibernating in there and been woken up by the warm weather.

THEN we finished off the greenhouse barcapping, and the two water butts were set up and inaugurated with a watering can full of water from the dustbin in the garage where we catch the water that comes in through the leaky roof.

Greenhouse complete!
Greenhouse complete!

Tea and hot cross buns on the lawn in the last of the sun at 5pm.

I felt like I’d earned my 6 o’clock beer and crisps.

A really lovely day.

Sunday brought another beautiful morning – frost, blues skies, birds singing and sheep baa-ing. I went over to Thistly Field and took some photos of the mist in the aptly named Grey Valley.

Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

We went for one of the longer walks we do around the lanes, made even longer by meeting lots of people at the start and end and stopping for chats. Long chat with Ray before we’d even got to Canns Hill.

Tremorithic Walk: the lambs are out at Black Bush
Tremorithic Walk: the lambs are out at Black Bush

Lunch outside, then pottering in the garden and greenhouse – laid some more gravel, relocated plant stuff from the garage, hoed the veg patch / herb bed, rooted up the dead geraniums, mint runners (boy, do they go a long way!) and baby nettles by the big pond. Raked out leaves and gunk from the small pond. Lopped back the stumps of the persistent shrubs by the Thistly Field stile and the orchard verge. All very satisfying.

Phil took this photo of me in my greenhouse (family & friends only).

Monday morning we discovered water coming through the light fitting in the hallway, and traced it back to wet carpet in the bedroom next to the en suite. Called Dale….

There are times, and there will be more, when I wish I just hadn’t started something.

Flickred the week’s photos and wrote the weeknotes, listening to the occasional drip – drip – drip into the bucket in the hall, and as the mist came down. Feels like I’m in a horror film.

Dale got here around 10am and tracked the leak back into the roof. Hopefully that’s all sorted now. We just have to let the carpet and underlay dry out….

A cold morning, with the mist down. I did some “computing” – Wickes click and collect for Wednesday and a big online grocery shop. Cloud still very low in the afternoon, so a few odd jobs in the garden.

TV: The last of This Farming Life Justified, TaskMaster (not entirely convinced).

Podcasts: History Extra, Witness History, Billionaire Boys Club (abandoned after 2 episodes – not that interested, plus too many ad breaks).

Photos: Herefordshire week 61 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-28.

Herefordshire Week 060: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 February 2021

dsfsd  <– yeah, got my scheduling out by a day. More tomorrow! [DONE!]

Briefnotes this week as I’ve spent most of Tuesday morning (and a good few hours on Fri / rainy Sat & Sun) working on a Secret Project for my dad’s birthday.

Spring is definitely on its way. We’ve lunched in the conservatory twice this week. YESssss. The camellia has a growing number of pink buds, and one brave bloom in a sheltered spot low down, and we have a yellow crocus out under the pear tree. Still waiting on the big daffodils to put in an appearance though.

Tuesday saw Day 2 of the Boiler Project, and a full house from Morgan & Cuss, redoing the gas pipe out to the LPG tank, backfilling the hole in the wall, removing the water tank from the roof, installing the pump – which has done the job, commissioning the boiler (and resuming the central heating) and showing Phil and me how to use the new controls. Very high tech!

Boiler Project: Complete
Boiler Project: Complete

KMCA Carnevale drinks in the evening over Zoom worked well on Tuesday but VWW didn’t fare too well on Weds and H and I abandoned Zoom and then abandoned the phone – connections were dire on both. It chucked it down all day – maybe that was the cause. Who knows?

Friday proved very productive: P and I decided on the taps, shower screen, mirror and paint plan for April’s Bathrooms Project; I settled up with Morgan & Cuss; had my physio telephone appointment and received hip / leg muscle strengthening exercises by email, which look remarkably like the ones dad got after his hip operation; hoovered, removed last of the water tank debris (insulation) from the loft and some flies (mostly Phil) and caught up with Charles before Pizza a la Phil (needs work).

Spent most of rainy Saturday at the computer, but we got out on Sunday morning and did the Tremorithic route, complete with squashed frogs on the way to Kerrys Gate and white stripes (indicating drains and drainage?) on the roads down from Cwm Hill. A bit drizzly at times, but we got home before the heavier rain set in.

White lines and drainage points
White lines and drainage points

Gorgeous weather on Monday, so I ended up going for TWO walks: Camp crossroads – Duffryn Farm – Cockyard – Quarrels Green on my own in the morning; and the Cockyard loop with P in the afternoon.

Here are the stats for the walks with Phil:

Tremorithic (Sunday)
Distance: 12.10km (7 ½ miles)
Elevation Gain: 262m

Cockyard (Monday)
Distance: 8.56km (5 1/3 miles)
Elevation Gain: 145m

On the gardening front, I also managed to track down last year’s left over seeds on Monday – third location lucky after “kitchen drawer” and “potting stuff in the garage”, “garden shed” turned up trumps – and added another lettuce base to the (microgreens) lettuce and carrot top I started last week. Not sure the carrot is growing, but the first lettuce is. It’s quite amazing.

Getting my microgreens going
Getting my microgreens going

Monday also brought a sensible COVID plan and schedule, with the familiar, apparently unavoidable, Boris boosterism. That said, I am all for the cautious evidence based approach – and wish we’d had the sense to do this last year, especially after the summer. I’ve already got a date in the diary for an outside coffee in Hereford on 12 March and a tentative long weekend in Pembs at the end of May… but the Annual Birthday Party won’t be taking place this March either.

An old invitation to the Annual Forty Acres Birthday Party

TV: Perseverance Mars landing live on YouTube (Nasa scientists hail Perseverance rover’s arrival on Mars with stunning images | Science | The Guardian), This Farming LifeHip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (Last in the series, on Queen Latifah, and it was my favourite), Justified, Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez (series 2, episode 1: Sir Arthur Evans, Knossos & the Minoan Civilisation. Aka rich, white men + Empire).

Podcasts: The Essay, History Extra, Witness History.

Photos: Herefordshire week 60 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-21.

Herefordshire Week 059: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 February 2021


Until Monday, when it was a balmy 12C and I was able to take off a layer…..

It’s been a cold, cold week, so we made sure our bird feeders were kept topped up peanuts, bird seed and fat balls, and put a flower pot saucer of water out once the day got warm enough.

Both ponds froze and the ground was rock hard, genuinely “in the bleak midwinter “.

Two new arrivals tempted by the bird feeders – a male Bullfinch and a Redwing. No buzzard this week though.

Blackbird - Robin - Bullfinch
Blackbird – Robin – Bullfinch

I had a lovely icy morning walk on Tuesday, before knuckling down to work for the week.  A cautious descent into Abbey Dore with Phil, meeting  a new neighbour down at Yew Tree Cottage, past Tan House Farm and into Dore Abbey churchyard. Phil headed home and I took the footpath up to Ewyas Harold Common, then Tremorithic Road to Fair Oak Farm before dropping down to Bacton (the iciest stretch, as expected) then back via Riverdale to Abbey Dore to avoid the cold winds up at Kerrys Gate.

Fair Oak, with Hatterral's Ridge and Hay Bluff behind
Fair Oak, with Hatterral’s Ridge and Hay Bluff behind

Worked Friday on a big document automation project that had been eluding me for the past couple of weeks. A gorgeous sunny day, and I would rather have been able to get outside in spite of the cold.

But still.

Birds busy at the bird feeders.

And Imogen West-Knights’ account of “Lawyer Cat” in The Guardian made me laugh so much that I cried. Haven’t done that for a while.

Still cold on Saturday, it didn’t get above -1C all day, so we lit the log stove and hunkered down with reading for the day. Living the dream – really. This is what I hoped our Forty Acres lives would see more of. I’m finding it harder to get stuck into reading though – not sure if that’s COVID uncertainty or an iPad reduced attention span.

Sunday brought the end of the cold spell, and rain. We managed to get out for a walk in the morning (Bacton) after a catching up with Carl. The rain really got going in the afternoon so it was back to the lounge, log stove and reading.

Dale and his team turned up bang on 8.30am on Monday to start our boiler replacement project which also entails removing the cold water tank from the roof and the hot water tank from the kitchen. We hit a slight snag with low water pressure, but they can install a pump to fix that. They’re coming back tomorrow to finish up.

That will set us up for the plumbers to return in April to replace the shower in the en suite and main bathroom with MORE POWERFUL ONES! At last. We are planning to get a bigger shower enclosure in the ensuite, and moving the sink to make room for that. We’re also replacing the radiator with a towel rail one.

Spending money – what’s come over me.

Our mature handyman came over on Monday afternoon and we put the slabs down in the greenhouse and bolted together the frames for the staging (greenhouse jargon for work bench / shelves / tops). I’ve still to nail the wooden slats together, but that should be OK. And I think we may need to shove a bit more sand under some of the slabs to eliminate wobbles.

Then I have to work out what to plant….

TV:  It’s a Sin (heartbreakingly wonderful), This Farming LifeHip Hop: The Songs That Shook America, Lady Macbeth, Young Adult and started season 5 of Justified.

Podcasts: The History of EnglandIn Our Time, The Missing Cryptoqueen.

Photos: Herefordshire week 59 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-02-14.