Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bit of a theme here?

Books; always lots of books at Xmas. I love it; I'd struggle to live without books and often have three or four on the go simultaneously. This year's haul included:

by the wonderfully-named Twigs Way. She has a refreshingly different take on allotments, majoring more on their place in social history than "plant yer carrots here, sunshine". She is also strong on allotments in Eastern Europe, as are the Eastern Europeans of course. Our Polish friends, before they moved to their current house, had a huge allotment with a two-storey summerhouse on it. Imagine getting away with that here. But it's a good read and I commend it to you.

But that's only one of this year's Xmas themes, and there isn't much going on at the allotment so I'll ramble off down a scenic byway for a moment. Also included in Santa's goody bag was:

I realise this may seem a tad odd, bordering more on pain than pleasure, (and nothing to do with allotments so you'll just have to indulge me in this) but I've always been keen on cycling UP hills, ideally long, hard & difficult hills. And there are some crackers in this book:
  • Fleet Moss - the highest road in Yorkshire
  • Kirkstone, Wrynose & Hardknott passes in the Lake District,
  • Crawleyside - out of Weardale
  • Winnatts Pass & Curbar Edge - in the Peak District
  • The Stang - out of Teesdale

Done them all, he said modestly. And a few more. But I was younger then; much younger. I think I may have had more legs to call on; I certainly had bigger legs, with bulges in places where nowadays I don't even have places.

And I've never done the Big Daddy of the British Isles - Bealach-na-Ba or Pass of the Cattle, in Wester Ross. I do recall standing at the bottom of it in 1968, aged 18, thinking Oh Lordy, No, that's just way too long & steep. But of the 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, I find I've already done 17 of them, albeit none of them recently.

So that's the intention for 2011, to get out and up some big hills, from the list and some others. It's a challenge from my younger self to my older self, to get out & do the job properly. What's that you say? Middle-aged fool, trying to relive his lost youth? Fie, be gone ye doubters; I can do enough of that myself.

Before this whole thing gets under way of course I first need to re-instruct the cycling legs in their true function, for they have been lamentably under-used of late. I may even be tempted to do a separate cycling blog to relay progress. In the meantime, here's a pic of times past.
This is my bike on top of the Snake Pass, sometime in the early 1980s. You'll have to take my word for it that's it's my bike, because I'm taking the picture aren't I? Doh! So why didn't I just get some passer by to take the photo with me in it? Because there weren't any passers-by, is the reason; the road was officially closed to all traffic because of the snow. Except bicycles, self-evidently. It seemed like a good idea at the time; actually, it still seems like a good idea even now!!

I hope you've had a great Xmas and are likewise looking forward to 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dull and drab and dreary.... what the allotment is like at present. Everything has been pressed flat by the weight of snow and frozen by -14C. But no doubt it'll recover in due course and in the meantime it's still producing leeks and cabbage.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

I like Chillie Oil. I grow Chillies. I've previously put home-grown Chillies in oil to make, errm, Chillie Oil. Should be simple, and it has been in the past.

Not this time.

The first two bits went well, growing the Chillies & putting them in some nice extra-virgin olive oil. But then, lateish on Saturday night, already tired & facing a long & snowy day on the road on Sunday, we noticed that the bottle was sitting in a small pool of oil.

Wilma Wilbury, brave Wilma Wilbury, investigated and, long story short, the bottle exploded in her face.

We had green, oily, chillie mess everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. All over the kitchen, over the window, the cooker, the floor, the walls, the dining table. And of course, Wilma.

Wilma is unhurt, although she did slip out of my hands a bit (the oil, you know).

It had clearly been fermenting in the bottle but fortunately the glass didn't break, just vented the oil at high pressure, but Ye Gods, what a mess. Come to think of it, I haven't looked at the ceiling; there might be some there too. And it was horrible. It was like the sort of stuff seabirds regurgitate to feed their young.

Shan't be doing that again (I've been told).