Autumn’s been wet but mild up here in the north western wastelands, leading to an explosion of colour in the flora of the area which has lasted well into November. I took a walk in the extended gardens surrounding Lowther Castle at the weekend and ended crossing the old stone bridge over the river Lowther, a tributary of the Eamont. The castle itself is expensive to visit, and there’s little to physically see, but the estate, outside of the main building, has lots of decent paths and parking is free. The cafe, although a little pricey (what isn’t these days) isn’t half bad either. The history of the place is fascinating, too, the estate having been in the possession of the Lowther family (latterly the Earls Of Lonsdale) since the Middle Ages. Needless to say, it’s had its share of ups and downs. Well worth a visit if you’re up this way.
This humble pile of logs (and other logs piled in other places) provides the background to a story of friendship, the joy of shared labour, the simple pleasure of the “manly pursuit” and that over-riding dream of every Yorkshireman, free stuff. A couple of weeks ago Dave (geologist Dave) rang me up and asked if I’d like to go out into the countryside a couple of miles from our ‘twin’ villages and collect some firewood, which he was happy to let me have for my own use. With logs not getting any less expensive I jumped at the chance and off we set. The area of woodland is being logged by a farmer friend of Dave’s (the geologist) who allows him to “tidy up” by taking away the lighter branches which, although still excellent burning timber, aren’t commercially viable to process. Any road up, we loaded up a decent trailer full, working together to saw it into manageable lengths with a bow saw (I steadied, Dave sawed) before, a couple of days later, cutting it into lengths using Dave’s (the geologist) circular table saw & transporting them to my front yard. Mrs. C wasn’t over the moon with the aesthetics of having a blue tarpaulin on display for the neighbours to see, but free’s free in my book.
Dave (retired forester Dave) a neighbour of geologist Dave and a member (in good standing) of our regular Tuesday evening “beer and bullshit” club let it be know he was having the local arborist round to fell a couple of trees and, should anyone be so inclined, the resultant timber would be available for the taking. The call duly came and Dave (the geologist) said he’d split it with his maul and, if I wanted to load the trailer with the resultant logs, he’d drop them at a place of my choosing. This we duly did. I have to say, watching Dave (the geologist) swing that maul was a wondrous experience, it clearly wasn’t his first rodeo. In no time at all we had enough sweet chestnut logs to fill his decent sized trailer twice over, which required nothing more than a place to season. Not wanting to incur the further wrath of Mrs. C, I piled them in the yard at the farm, next to the bait cabin, knowing I’d have to call on Dave (my Dave) to come up with an idea for their storage, dry space being at something of a premium on the farm. By now it was Friday and I’d pootled off to Lowther, with my camera club friends, before nipping into Penrith for a birthday pint. By the time I arrived home Dave (my Dave) had cleared a space in the big wooden shed and not only had he stacked my chestnut logs for me, he’d nipped round and got the ones from my front yard and stacked them, too. “Dave” I said, “there’s more of this chestnut to be had; Dave (retired forester Dave) just wants it off his drive, but he says there’s no great rush”. Dave (my Dave) doesn’t do hanging about, so, without further ado, he hitched up his trailer and off we went, back up the hill, to collect what was left.
Dave (geologist Dave) had even split the last of the big rounds into logs, ready for me to collect, which was very good of him. It took two trips to get the last of the chestnut back to the farm, by which time it was dusk, but we got it unloaded, the split logs stacked and the pieces of trunk and the larger branches moved into the first greenhouse (the future site of the outdoor vegetable plot), where Dave (my Dave) keeps his log splitter. I just saw him this morning and he’s cut and split it, ready for sharing 50/50, all I have to do is barrow it round to the shed and stack it. It goes without saying that the banter was ribald and persistent, the leg pulling, about many things, was good natured and the smiles on the faces of all involved, even when the backs were aching and the arm muscles were sore, were genuine. A series of enjoyable interludes, over a couple of weeks, that cemented already strong friendships and reinforced manly bonds and left me with (probably) a full winters fuel stock. No amount of money could buy “crack” quite like it. As Dave (geologist Dave) says; “Free firewood’s the best firewood money can’t buy”.
Very little of any great import’s happening in the greenhouse, the strawberry beds have only just stopped producing fruit and, as previously mentioned, I’ve been removing them from their “beds”, thinning them out and putting the best of the runners and younger plants onto trays to over winter. Rather than dispose of this years growing medium I’m going to cover it and feed it in spring with the macerated nettle fertiliser and organic chicken manure.
The pineapple seems to be thriving, I’ll let it over winter in the cold frame, with the strawberry plants and see how it looks in the spring. I’m expecting it’ll need a bigger pot, but I might put it into the ground and see if I can get it to grow on. It has to be worth a try, even if it doesn’t come off.
As I said, not a great deal happening, there are around two hundred strawberry plants and the pineapple in the cold frame, which has two layers of fleece protecting its contents, one internal and one external. I’ve used some heavy duty membrane to cover the beds, weighted down with bricks and an empty watering can, just to be on the safe side.
This particular chilli bush (Havana Gold) has decided to go into fruit production overdrive. So much so that I’ve made another decent sized batch of sweet chilli jam, mixing them with some of the smaller red peppers (which are now starting to ripen) a yellow bell pepper or two and a dozen jalapeno. It should have a bit of an “interesting” flavour, if nowt else!
Let’s face it folks, we’re beset on all sides by the dim, the ignorant, the childish, the entitled, the self absorbed, the weak minded, the ideologically blinded, the politically and religiously motivated useful idiots and the (frankly) insane. Everybody (or so it seems) has to have a cause. Every month has to be a month for one faction or another, whether it be “Black History Month”, “Pride Month”, UK LBGT+ History Month”, “Plastic Free July” or one of many others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware of things outside of our respective comfort zones and there are many things which we all could do with giving at least some consideration too, especially where the health of the nation is concerned, but the rewriting of history to create false narratives and the flaunting of the most base of sexual proclivities, often in the presence of young, impressionable minds and stupidly standing in the way of job creation to garner virtue points aren’t things I’m comfortable with.
Last week I had occasion to visit Penrith to meet a couple of friends for a beer and a chat. I took the bus. What’s normally a fifteen to twenty minute ride (outside of high tourist season) took almost exactly an hour, not least because of a bunch of cranks “protesting” the proposed coal mining project at Woodhouse Colliery, West Cumbria. Once this project gets the go ahead, if it ever does (planning permission has been granted, appeals drag on) it will supply some of the high quality coal type required by the steel industries in the UK and Europe. Currently it’s estimated that almost seventeen million tonnes of this type of coal are imported annually, from the US alone. The argument for lowering said imports by any amount is sound on both a commercial and ecological basis. As many as five hundred jobs will be created, providing a big boost to the local economy, which it could well do with. Yet here they are, middle class “green activists” probably either retired educators or Civil Servants taking a flexi-day, prepared to deny the chance of an honest days pay for an honest days work to the ordinary folk of Whitehaven and its environs, whilst they enjoy their final salary pensions and their flexible “working from home” life-style arrangements. Said “activists” wouldn’t be seen dead in Whitehaven, they’re more likely to be seen wandering around Machu-Pichu, cooing boastfully to their fellow travellers about the carbon credits they’ve bought to offset the environmental “damage” of their Business Class flights. Seriously, if I say I’m going to be in ‘Spoons by half past twelve, I expect to get there on time. A virulent pox on ALL their houses.
© Colin Cross 2023