Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Racecar Shack Build, Day Three

After our previous successes with the Racecar Shack I hadn't expected to do much until the Fig Tree was moved, freeing up space for us to comfortably finish off the roof.

But things have dragged on with getting the Fig Tree moved, and then a few weeks ago we had a number of very windy days which took developments out of my hands.  We had planned to move the enormous budlia, and in fact had hauled half of it down ourselves with a good piece of rope and a large amount of heave-ho!

It has now become apparent that our previous partial felling resulted in a slightly off-balance tree.  An off-balance that when attacked by a few very windy days (as we suffered over 6th and 7th January) would result in the remainder of the tree coming down.  On the plus side, this meant the tree was down!  On the down side it meant I had to do some fence repair and tree removal as we were now sharing our budlia with the Social Club next door.

I was heading out to walk Harry and I noticed how light and spacious the back of the shack looked.  And then I realised why!

And so I picked up the phone and rang Bill to see if he had plans for the weekend.  Cos we had some chopping to do!

The weekend arrived and we got stuck in.  When you jumped through into the Social it became appartent at just quite how large the budlia was!

Even as we got down to the larger branches there was still a huge amount laid the wrong side of the fence.

We got a little method worked and made pretty quick work of it.  Before long the main trunk of the tree had been stood back up and felled back on itself and into our garden.  This revealed the sorry state of the fence, and that the fence post had seen far better days.

I had an old fence post in the garden though, so although it meant more work it wasn't the end of the world.  Due to lack of space, and the old fence post remains, we were left to drive in the new fence post with sheer brute force.  The downwards end had a spike cut into it, and we then set about whacking the post into place.  With just a lump hammer.  Whilst stood on my wood chopping tree stump.  Which was balanced on a picnic table in the garden of the social.  But we got there though.  And then we fashioned together what we could of the old fence panel.

We realised this left a handy man sized hole in the fence.  Clearly we needed to patch this up to stop people coming through into the garden, but not before we made use of it to escape into the Social for a quick pint.

Our drinks were rudely interupted when my phone rang and my beloved wife informed me that our son had been creating mahem all afternoon and what the hell was I doing having a pint.  In truth she needn't have rung, we could hear her as clearly as if the properties had been terraced!

And so we finished off the fence, patched together with a few shelves that were previously in that unit by the back door.  There are no photos.  It had got dark whilst we were in the Social! 

Bill made a dash for home before we sat down for food as he had some of his own wind damage to repair, but as we neared the end of our meal it became very clear just how crazy had been during the afternoon.  He had properly worn himself out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cycling Training Update

I realise that since posting about the planned cycle trip to Gibraltar I have been very shy of updates.

I don't really know why that is as loads has been happening.  My planned routine was to have a big ride on the weekend and smaller rides during the week.  My big weekend ride would increase by 10 miles each month, starting with 20 miles in September, then 30 in October, 40 in November and so on.

Training in September and October went really well, but things slowed a little during November and December due to Esme's birth.  Following Christmas I was back out on the bike with a 40 mile ride which seemed far more comfortable than I imagined it would.

I shifted my training plan slightly and now aim to ride 50 miles in January, 60 in February, 70 in March, 80 in April and then 90 in May which should see me being very comfortable for the days in the saddle during the cycle to Gib.

The New Year signalled just five months until the trip, and focused a lot of my thoughts onto what bike I would complete the ride on.  I had been training on my mountain bike, but I've known for a long time that I would look to ride a road bike on the journey. 

With sales everywhere, and Tash and I having a lot of time at the moment, I started looking at bikes.  More research than anything, but of course the inevitable happened.  I found something that was just what I wanted and at a fantastic price!   I sat on the 2012 Trek 1.1 which would have cost £550, but really wanted to step up to the 1.2 which came with extra kit (most notable a 9 speed cassette) but would have cost £700.  A bit of looking around and I found the 2011 model of the 1.2 for £500!  Bang on budget, and £50 less than the bottom spec 2012 model I was looking at!

Many thanks go to my Dad for helping me fund such a purchase at such short notice, and two days later my new set of wheels were parked up in the barn!

Keen to keep training, and get out on the bike, I did a ride last week one evening in temperature about 4 degrees.  I was actually warm enough, and still in shorts, although my feet certainly got cold!

The weekend arrived and I was planning my first 50 mile cycle.  I sorted a lovely route and Friday night sorted all my gear for an early start on Saturday.  I wanted to be on the bike by 7am, a time I found out when everything was going to be frozen and with the sun not yet up neither were the temperatures!  As a result I planned a pair of thermals for under my shorts, 2 pairs of thermal socks for my feet and a pair of socks to go over my cycling shoes!

All that gear may sound stupid, and I bet I sure as hell looked it, but I hate the cold and I always get hit in toes.  I left on time and after 5 miles or so I'd warmed up my fingers and my feet were doing OK.  All that changed by the time I reached 15 though and my feet were really feeling it and I seemed unable to do anything to warm my toes.  I was cycling through lots of freezing fog which resulted in moisture forming on my eyelashes and my eyelashes freezing together!  I decided to turn around, happy with a 30 miles ride in such unfriendly conditions!

Maybe I sound like a wuss, but by the time I got home this was how my feet looked!

Yup, I had frost on the outside of my socks!  You can imagine how my toes were doing!

And I did the the majority of the ride without being able to refuel as my energy drinks froze up too!

I can see why Cavendish flies out to Italy for his winter training now!

Friday, January 13, 2012

How Fire Is Made

Its Friday, you all want the day to end. Well waste 6 minutes watching this then!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Few More Squeezed Into The Ark!

I write this update with somewhat mixed emotions.

We had been down to one chicken since the end of last summer when one of our last birds was diagnosed with having mites.  Sadly, and obviously, she didn't make it and with the whole chicken run to herself our final bird went off the lay.  That is not why I am a touch sad though, that part comes later.

And so for a number of weeks I spoke about us acquiring a few more birds, and with winter approaching I wanted them not only for eggs but also for warmth for our current lone girl.  I was aware that a change in EU legislation regarding keeping battery hens was coming into force, but I didn't really know much about it.  But then just a few weeks before Christmas I got an email from the Battery Hens Welfare Trust saying something like "you've had chooks from us before, and due to the change of legislation we have a load of birds becoming available - would you consider taking on a few more?"  And of course I jumped at the chance, it was just what we were after!

And so we drove (the Benz scraped/ploughed) our way across the B roads of Britain to Bishops Stortford to grab our three new birds.  They settled in pretty quick, and have been on the lay since day 1!  With the coop now being cleaned out regularly with this anti-mite stuff I am hopeful they will be our longest surviving birds yet!  They only thing is that with three new scrawny birds (though they are much healthier than the three we got a few years back) it makes our 'resident' bird look exceptionally fit and healthy ... and plump and tasty! ;o)

Here the all are!

They get quite regular free time around the garden now too as Harry proved my earlier suspicions that he would be fine with chickens, if maybe a little excitable at times.  Though seeing a dog trying to sniff a chickens arse is a bizarre sight!

That period between Christmas and New Year can often be a bit 'nothing'.  Not really festive, but nothing really to do.  This year seemed really different though, and on December 28th we made a visit to the Koi centre which is just up the road from us.  We go there fairly often, previously when Neo (my Leopard Gecko) was alive for his food, and now just to show Alfie all the cool fish and reptiles.  There must be something about the inter Xmas/New Year period that leads me to have a desire to make rather impulsive reptilian purchases.  I acquired Neo at that time back around 1999, and on this day we walked out with a Anerythristic Corn Snake.  Alfie loved he, he actually chose it, and they are great pets for kids - and I really fancied a snake.  We had the viv, heating, hides etc ready to go and so went home to get it set up before collecting him that evening.

I then did a load of research and learnt how to let them settle, and most importantly that they are proper escape artists!  They can even flatter their heads which means they can get through gaps just a few mm big - and with ours being just 6 months old he's pretty small!  The viv is an old fish tank and so I made the lid temporarily escape proof before making a new lid.  I did this on Saturday (Jan 7th), but clearly there must have been a tiny gap somewhere as the bugger had packed his bags and gone to see the wider world by Monday morning!  I'm pretty gutted about it, and I'm preying he makes an appearance soon.  There are many tales of Corns disappearing for days/weeks/months on end so I am trying to keep positive that he'll reappear somewhere.  In the meantime there are water dishes everywhere, his viv is on the floor, his hide is on the floor with the heat mat under it, and there are many bottle traps been set.  The bottle traps have a furry in each one and as he is due to be fed today I hope he'll come out in the search for food soon!

And so if you happen to visit FTC please keep your eyes out for a snake who looks something like this chap.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Esme Simone Batsford - Born 24/11/11

The frantic period of Alfie's Birthday, Esme's Birth and then Christmas has put me massively behind with my blogging, and so I'm hoping to find some time to catch up with things over forthcoming days.

As we expected Esme was late, but we had wonderful support from our Independant Midwives and Mel our fantastic friend and Doula.  I won't go into all the details here, I'm sure Tash will do that on her Maybe Diaries blog, and so the short version is that after three days of labouring in our birth pool at home we referred into Bedford Hospital where Esme was born 24th November 2011 at 10am.

Tash spent the next week in hospital as the doctors ran test after test to initially work out why she was short of breathe, and then to try and deduce what heart problems had reared their heads.  Its now January 6 and we still don't know exactly what happened, and are very much in the dark as to why it all happened.  I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that further tests are coming Tash's way!

Anyway, after a week of me playing mummy (which included collecting donor breast milk and feeding Esme myself as by now Esme had been discharged) finally Tash joined her back at FTC and it was lovely to be home together as a family. 

In our final moments cuddled up together on the sofa before we transferred in to hospital I suggested to Tash that it might be nice to finish off our 'birth experience' back in the birth pool as we had planned all along.  And so with us all back home we refilled the pool once again and had a lovely time with Alfie and Esme in the water.  It took Esme a little while to get used to it, but Alfie thought Christmas had come early!

Welcome to the world my darling daughter, now the fun and games really begin!