Saturday, February 25, 2017

Goat Girl

How we see ourselves often differs from what we are ...

Pet man's view of goat-pixies:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

 This reminds me of my girls, Elizabeth and Isabella most. They would comb and try to braid their dad's hair while keeping up a chattering conversation.

And this one reminds me of Kat, always reaching for something.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

O Reader's Adventures in the back garden

Or, undiscovered country, perils therein and hidden treasure ...

The hills are alive...

            Two quotes come to mind when I think of Wales. The first is Julie Andrews spinning around and trilling “The hills are alive with the sound of music...” OK - so that was about Austria, but it applies to Wales. Music and hills. The other is from the British sitcom Blackadder. The main character describes Wales as a ghastly place, “Huge gangs of tough sinewy men roam the valleys terrorising people with their close-harmony singing.”
            Wales has the singing. Wales has the valleys. And it goes without saying that if you have valleys, then you have hills. Lots of hills. Everywhere. Nearly everything is built on a hill. Some streets go up and down them. If you come out into the road in the snow, you will immediately find yourself 100 yards further down the hill in a heap.
            But most are sensible and go ALONG the valleys. Ours does.
            If you drew a short straw, you would have the hill rising at the back. So the rear of your property is in permanent shade, and you need a mountaineering course to reach your garden. We are on other side - so we are on the ground level at the front, while the rear garden disappears below us. Further up the street the hill is so steep that houses have two more stories underneath what Brits call “ground floor” and Americans call “first floor”. [Americans say both – ed.] It makes for more space and lots of exercise.
            For us, you go down steps to the garden and we just have a head high cellar.
            But out of the back door is a patio area and then steps down to the garden.
            The original steps that came with the house in the 1880s were positively lethal. They were obviously designed for people with very small feet who burrowed underground for a living; it approached what appeared to be almost a sheer drop.
            So when we came here, one of the first things we did was to rebuild the steps. To extend them we created a platform and it just suited the lay-out to put in a manhole cover at that point to reach the sewer. It was discreetly overlaid with a decorative flagstone and then you stumbled through raised flower beds to finally reach the garden.
            But now, the big plan for 2017 is to have a raised decking area, so we will come out onto a large flat area, with much shallower and wider steps at one end down the side of garden. We will be able to bask on our veranda in the two annual days of Welsh sunshine and look at the panorama of other people’s washing... The height of the proposed structure and interminable laws about health and safety meant it took some time to get planning permission, but my son-in-law works in a family engineering business, and he and my daughter have designed it all for us. It is to be of metal but powder coated to resemble wood, and then covered with special boards that will not rot. An earthquake could hit the village and this decking will be the one structure still standing. It is just as well. Just before the law required such detailed checks, our neighbor built his own huge decking area, and after less than ten years had to rebuild it all in the interests of his family not ending up in the hospital.
            We are of an age when that is not a desired option.
            The problem though is that in taking out the steps in readiness this last week, our manhole to the sewer was suddenly revealed, now rising phoenix-like above the level of garden. So we got the builders to re-build it and drastically reduce its height. There was one dodgy moment when they asked us not to use the downstairs smallest room. But just at that moment our home was invaded by gaggle of volunteer workers (R will know who I mean) and all the girls in the cold weather wanted to visit the Welsh “tŷ bach”. I went to put up a sign not to flush, but it was too late - all of a sudden there was an agonized bellow from the garden. It was so expressive. The builder put such a lot of thought into it.
            Anyhow, the workmen have now gone, and my garden is full of rubble. I have just spent a day with rubble sacks transporting it to a local facility that takes it free of charge. I just hope my auto’s suspension survives the experience. I ache, therefore I am.
            All the rockeries and raised beds that were alongside the house have now been transferred to the other end of the garden. And I have to say that I’ve enjoyed the creative aspect of dry stone walling, as I did when I built the originals back in the 1980s.    
            Of course Mrs O has been out there with her phone and her tablet taking pics, and has put it all on Instagram for her circle. It means that when I attend meetings twice a week, I am invariably greeted by individuals who point fingers and chortle. Fortunately nearly all you dear readers haven’t a clue as to who I really am, and you’ll never get anywhere near Mrs O’s account.
            So if I continue this saga I can get away with telling whatever fibs I like.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flour and Feed - Mystery Photo

So ... in the process of re-doing bits of my house, I found a small box of old family photos I've never sorted. I've posted one of these below. Other than somewhere in the United States, I have no clue where this was taken. The sign is out of focus, and I cannot read all of it. If you're a super detective, maybe you can figure out the location. ...

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Just the start ....

            County Road 6 does not exist. It’s not on any map published since 1954. But it’s there, a ribbon of decayed asphalt stretching upland along the basalt and granite ridges above the Susan River’s west bank. Poachers walk it occasionally, though the hunting isn’t good there.       
            A crumbling, thick concrete platform is the grave marker for a school. They found a poacher’s body there once, about three years ago I think. He was impaled on rebar, and bits of him were nibbled by the small things that make their home in the tall grasses. His eyes were gone, pecked out by sparrows or crows.
            No sign of that is left; no bloodstains; no gore. Nothing at all tells of a once violent act.
            The road swerves left for no apparent reason, probably to follow a property line that no longer exists or matters. It reaches a basalt wall about two miles further onward and is forced to descend the upland into Susan Valley. The drop is not great, but the grade is steep. Near the end of that decline the ghost of County Road 6 disappears into the wide pool formed behind Castleback Dam. But there are other ghosts there – Ghosts of things drowned and buried. A village died when the pool rose. You can see its bones at low water. There is a cemetery out there somewhere. None of the graves were moved. Near the end of February, when the pool’s at its lowest, you can see the tombstones.
            Willow and birch line the banks, growing around basalt boulders. The bank is swampy and stinks of a dozen of kind of rot. Scoop a handful of the gray sand and poke it with your fingers and you will find it full of squirming, pink nematodes, creatures who vacuum the sand for food.
            There are no local legends about this place, at least none I’ve heard and I have asked. But people tend to avoid this pool of drowned hope and drowned graves.
            “Pretty poor fishing there,” an old timer told me. But I’ve sat on the rocks watching salmon jump. The water is clear, and you can see the fish. No-one fishes here. They all drive down to the old Highway 10 Bridge and fish there.
            They don’t come here because ... well, let me put it this way: I first came here because I was afraid. I was running, and the scrub trees that fill the valley seemed a good place to hide. Now I only come here when I am fearless and my curiosity bests my good judgment.
            My mother preached “common sense” to me. Her pithy and judgmental remarks have never left me: “God gave you a brain. Use it.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

At the risk of offending all my conservative readers ...

Why pixies like their pet dragons. Censored for this mostly PG blog:

My pet, shape shifting dragon is away on business. Home in about a week.

Closer and Closer

Probably everyone who bothers to read this blog is tired of my redo the house photos. But ... it's my blog and I get to post what I want. Herewith is progress to this date.

The white cabinet in the foreground was a barn find. It's about 140 years old. I was going to strip and refinish it, but I'm going to yard sale it.

These shelves are almost totally as I want them.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Remember the first project photos ...?

I've made some progress in that area. Scroll down for the earlier photos. They make these look much better than they appear to be ...

The antique folding chair will stay. Trunk and most of the junk on it will not.

Framed photo is daughter #3 by age. Young woman now. Sorry for the bad photo. I don't take swell photos.

Still shuffling books.

What this pixie reads ....

O. Reader's curiosity knows no bounds ... which makes him interesting. In the comment trail he suggested he wanted to know what's on the shelves in a previous photo. Herewith are samples ...

The Perils of Research

Writing partner and I depend on original sources. We keep copies for future reference. If you're a serious historian and perusing original research, that's what you do. These are the binders and files containing the source material for our work in progress.

O. Reader's Journey

I went for a walk today.

            That is not quite as strange as it may seem. I have been known to do considerable exercise, albeit when a little shorter in the tooth. (Is that an expression they use in the US?) And my father was a fitness freak who walked thirteen miles for charity at the age of 95. I must hasten to add that his demise the same year was totally unrelated.
            At the back of where we live are a series of lakes and cascades, built on the site of three former coal mines. A little over twenty years ago with masses of money from Europe, the eyesores were all taken away, around a hundred thousand native trees were planted and the river was raised and lakes created. Previously it had been covered by spoil tips. Now it is a Mecca for tourists. The lakes are used by canoeing clubs, model boat clubs, fishermen, and a variety of wild life. Perhaps the only blot on the landscape is the need to regularly rake out a foreign weed. Some incontinent Canadian goose apparently deposited the seeds a few years back and we are stuck with it. At one end of this special park is the largest natural filtration system in Europe - reed beds that clean the water coming up from old mine workings before it is put back in the river, along with an international climbing center, and then at the other end near us a roaring cascade through a series of descending small pools.
            The walk was to show us what had been done in the last year. The cascade is designed in steps so that salmon and other fish can scale it and reach the lakes. I would have thought they would need to be particularly energetic fish, but apparently they can jump in these stages without trouble. A sea trout has been found in the lakes, which must have made an adventurous journey, twenty five miles inland and up some steep gradients. And they have recently created a walkway under the main road at the bottom where the cascade thunders through to the main river, for the benefit of otters whose encounters with traffic were somewhat prejudicial.
            But now they have put in a hydro-electric plant, which is hidden away. And that is what we were taken to see. Water is taken from the river through a very fine mesh, designed to prevent even very small bits of debris going through. It is taken from the top of the cascade, and as it responds to gravity, is compressed into smaller pipes and powers a generator before going back into the river at the bottom of the cascade. Although it cost about half a million GBP to build, the electricity sold back to the national electric grid raises one hundred thousand GBP per year. On that reckoning the whole thing will be paid for in five years, and then it is all profit. And the profits don’t go to the local council - who might waste it on “expenses” at the other end of the borough, they all go back to the park for maintenance, extra wardens and the like.
            I have to say I was impressed. Both with the design of something that is completely hidden from view, and the plans for the wild life, as the park and lakes get increasingly more colonized.
            Another local initiative for generating electricity is food waste. We sometimes grumble when we have to put out four different bins for recycling each week, plus an extra one for non-recycled rubbish. Some local authorities will give you just one bin to fill and then hire people to sort it out. But with the massive unemployment in our area since the industry went down the tubes, the local council is always strapped for cash. So it is Do-It-Yourself time. But the food caddy goes out each week, with biodegradable bags full of dead teabags, peelings, and the results of me putting too much on my plate to begin with. It all gets taken to a farm nearby, where I know the people quite well.
            They have what is called an anaerobic digester - which sounds painful - but this produces methane. Rather than being a pollutant this is then used to generate electricity. When they first started they immediately produced enough electricity to run the total needs of several thousand homes, and that figure has obviously risen. The farm makes good money, dead food doesn’t go into landfill and since (hey-ho for all these regulations) it can’t be recycled as animal feed, everyone gains. Now if only they could harness the methane given off by flatulent cattle someone would make a fortune.
            I guess it wouldn’t work if we all lived in cities, but these different initiatives do contribute. And you know, when I tap my waistline and decide not to eat that last potato, and scrape the remains of my dinner into the caddy, I feel rather virtuous. You see, I’m helping to save the planet.
            Well, sort of...

Minor progress...

This bit is almost as I want it. Third shelf down has two rows of books, one behind the other. Some will move to the new bookcase when it is installed.

The lamp shade isn't stained. The oddly discolored area is from the flash.
O. Reader is curious about what I read. These are all history books. Big green thingies are part of my Germany stamp collection.