Category Archives: Personal

A Curious Find

Whilst trawling through Google to find my name used in business names (I'm thinking of moving to trade under my own name), I discovered the Matthew Smith Registry, a listing by a namesake of other Matthew Smiths on the web. I wasn't entirely surprised to see that I wasn't on the list as I tend more towards Smiffy as a nom de clavier.

July Celebrations

It must have been about ten years ago that I, in whimsical mood, set pen to paper and produced (what I thought was) some humorous verse:

Fourth of July!
The fireworks fly
And go off with a ruddy gurt bang in the sky.
Independence Day, Independence Day,
The day the British went away
'Cause they'd got fed up and would rather fight the French
Who lived much closer.
Juillet Quatorze
You'd best stay indoors
Or risk getting guillotined down by the poor.
Show them cold steel!
Storm the Bastille!
Put 'em on the creaking tumbril!
Vive la République!
Play loud music!
And knit all their names in to a nice wooly scarf
That you can give to cousin Jasper
At Christmas.

Notes de l'auteur:

  • "ruddy gurt" is dialect (South West England) and may be interpreted as "big".
  • In my original version, the British decided to fight the Germans, which was a bit of an historical inaccuracy; the US Declaration of Independence was in 1776 – Britain didn't go to war with Germany until 1914. Fighting the French is also an historical inaccuracy – the Napoleonic Wars weren't to start for another 24 years, but I claim a) what's 24 years between friends? b) poetic license and c) failing history 'O' level at school.
  • Le Quatorze (14th) Juillet is Bastille Day in France – see this Wikipedia article for details.
  • "Guillotined down" is poetic license – the guillotine wasn't a portable weapon to be wielded as might be implied from this line.
  • Storm the Bastille – if you don't know what this is, you didn't read the Wikipedia article above.
  • Tumbril: a type of cart used to convey executees to the guillotine.
  • Knitting: refers to Madame Defarge in Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities", who sat by the guillotine knitting the names of all those who died in the name of the Republic into her needlework.
  • Notes de l'auteur: French for author's notes.

Happy 4th July to all my American readers.

The Joys of Gardening

Since the rains, the ground has become soft and the mess at the bottom of the yard has been demanding my attention. Yesterday, I grubbed out the tomato plants and stuck in some sugar peas where they were against the back fence. I've already got irrigation down there (nice, nutrient rich, reclaimed water), so all that remains is to build some trellises out of whatever suitable rubbish I can find in the pile of junk the builders left when they built this house.

I needed to break some more ground to get some other vegetables in – onions being the main priority at the moment. After long-term illness, I discovered that trying to turn the soil over with a fork was a bad move – I'm not as well recovered as I thought. I popped a disc cultivator on the back of "Fergus", my 47-year-old tractor, and managed to cultivate about 90 square metres in about 10 minutes, despite working in a confined space that required me to have to reverse after every 9 metres of cultivation.

The effort of raking that much heavy, wet, soil has convinced me that I need to build myself some sort of rake to go on Fergus' three-point linkage.

Fergus also helped me remove a huge stack of weeds and old tomato plants – I just stacked it all on a pallet on the three-point linkage forklift attachment I built a few weeks ago.

I have two punnets of brown onion seedlings in, have a punnet of spring onions to plant, Chinese cabbage (Bok Wong) and borlotti beans to sow – the latter requiring another trellis.

I have yet to work out how I am going to irrigate the onions; I don't think that drip irrigation will give me the coverage and I can't use sprays because the reclaimed irrigation water will a) block spray nozzles and b) being gravity-fed, has insufficient pressure to run sprays anyway.

So that's the garden as things stand; I'm having a rest now and plan to get working on the pea/bean trellises later, if I'm not too stiff to get up again.

Solstice Drama

And where to start?

On the eve of the Solstice (the Winter one, for the benefit of those up in the Northern Hemisphere who have just enjoyed their longest day), my wife had a phone call just as I was preparing the evening meal – her father had been admitted to hospital with a collapsed lung.

I had to stay home and feed dogs, horses and myself whilst my wife went off to the hospital.

Merry Solstice! There's only one thing worse on this day than visiting somebody in hospital and that's being the person visited. My father in law seemed quite cheerful, all things considered.

Flash! Bang! Not long after we arrived home, we experienced a lightning strike that was far too close for comfort. The horses spooked and the dogs were terrified. A hail storm (small stuff, luckily) along with a lot more rain; looks like our drought has finally broken.

Amidst all this drama, I discovered that my rain gauge seems to have been putting out some very dubious data. I bought this model specifically because it was advertised as having better resolution than a cheaper model – which now does not appear to be the case. Luckily I am able to adjust my historical data, which I will do once I have gone out there and done some calibration to work out exactly what the wretchèd thing is really registering. On the positive side, we have been getting a lot more rain than I though.

Still not done – more drama unfolds. My wife advised me this morning that the mains water pump was making "funny noises", as well it may, as it was merrily trying to pump air. The 1,000 litre break tank was completely empty; no signs of leakage, so it must have been pumped empty. This means one of two things: one – the pump had pumped the water somewhere (where?) or two – we had received no mains water for two or three days. I am still waiting for the tank to fill sufficiently that I can re-prime the pump and get things back to normal so that I can investigate further.

Lots of Solstice Fun – all of which I could have done without.

We're Losin' Power Cap'n!

Whilst about to prepare my first espresso of the morning, I noticed a flash in the sky; many more followed in a silent (and distant) storm. All of a sudden we got one closer to home – and out went the lights (it's been a very dark day). My UPSs soldiered on for five minutes and then we lost everything – Internet connection, weather station – the lot.

A fairly widespread outage – Kadina was affected, which is not usually the case when we lose power – took about three hours to rectify. My wife and I got extremely bored, although I had the entertainment of getting the generator going so that we would have running water at least.

Ah, the generator; I thought it was using a lot of fuel the last time I ran it; this is no surprise as the fuel hose had softened at both ends and had been oozing (unbeknown to me). Today the hose fell off, spraying petrol everywhere; luckily the engine was not yet hot. I managed to make a repair using a length of automotive fuel hose and some proper (screw up) hose clamps. I'm going to speak to the retailer and try to get hold of the details of the importer – this is clearly defective, dangerous, and should probably be bounced to Trading Standards to get a product recall going before someone tries to get electricity and ends up with a major fire.

My wife had the delight of her lunchtime soup re-heated on the emergency gas stove; I'm just hoping that I don't have to find out how to use it to finish of a half-roasted chicken; we've got plenty of spare gas cannisters, but…

Fergus Lends A Hand

Fergus the tractor carrying bottles

I make beer and plan to be planting vines this year so that I can also make wine; one of the more arduous tasks is cleaning and moving around bottles. A couple of days ago, I built a kind of three-point-linkage forklift for “Fergus”, my tractor; now moving bottles is oh, so easy!

The large boxes in the picture are the sanitised and capped champagne bottles that I use for my beer; the wine bottles we have saved and collected from the in-laws against the day when I’ve got something to put in them.

After the Storm

I am so glad that we prepared for the coming of the rains. Over the last 24 hours, we have had two, whole millimetres; looking at the satellite images, I don't think we will be getting a lot more out of this system. Still, that is 1,000 litres plus in the tanks.

The Great Escape

Photo of the escapee horses

Great drama this morning – my wife spotted the horses out of the northern boundary, and accelerating. It seems that the farmer forgot to put up a couple of gates when he finished seeding; the horses opened their own gate and saw freedom. Catching them was a real bundle of fun; I had to put aside scheduled activities afterwards to do a spot of extra electric fencing. That should keep them in.