Very important updates

Fact me ’til I fart.

I need to share this stuff.

A guy called Nathan Nelson applied for a job as a stacker at the Harris Ranch Beef Company in California. I know this because he used my email address for the application. I hope he gets the job but if they want to get in touch with him I’m not forwarding the emails, mainly because I don’t know how to get hold of him. For some reason, a lot of Nathan Nelsons (there are a lot) think my email address is their email address. Email is stupid.

Seed compost is a waste of money.

A friend’s three-year-old picked all the tomatoes off one of my plants and stuffed them down the drain with two paintbrushes and an unripe strawberry. She at first denied it, blaming the cat, before admitting her misdemeanour, explaining that she had been “cooking”. The entertainment value of all this was worth more than the tomatoes. I am done trying to grow tomatoes.

I sort of regret deleting year’s worth of old blog posts when I trashed my old website, but at least my old backpacking blog still lingers around on the Interweb.

I’ve started waking up earlier and earlier and I’m just going with it.

Finally, I’ve just eaten jelly for breakfast. Having my six-year-old niece to stay is awesome.

Furry overlord

We are but his slaves.

He has me well-trained. I hear him walking into the room now and wake. Sometimes he’ll sound a short double miaow, like a car alarm being armed. I reach out sideways from the bed and his head bumps up into my hand. Purring. I know that this is just the prelude.

The miaowing starts.

It is four thirty in the morning. It has only just started to brighten outside.

I’m lying here now, a man in his early forties so of course I need to pee, but if I get up, he has won again because I’ll have to put his collar on, unlock the cat flap, feed him. So I lie there needing to pee, with him miaowing and me pretending to be asleep.

If I lie here much longer he’ll jump up on the bed. He’s developed a technique for doing this that’s not unlike an Oompa Loompa delivering CPR. Six kilos of cat landing on your sternum really wakes you up.

Eventually, I crack. Of course I do. He, having won, sprints downstairs and waits for me to put his collar on, unlock the cat flap and feed him.

So now it’s five thirty, he comes back in having soiled the back garden and stared at a frog, and goes back upstairs and to sleep.

I can’t, of course. Because it’s light and it’s five thirty and I have All The Thoughts in my head.

Some people like to blog about how getting an early start is great. You can get your best work done, blah blah blah. I bet they’re cat owners just looking for a coping mechanism.

A Countryside Management Jargon Decipherer

Ever attended a conservation work day? Maybe volunteering outdoors? Don’t let these conservation workers blind you with their jargon.

Some useful translations follow for countryside management speak, so you can understand countryside management types when they’re giving you a load of flannel about mattocks.


"I haven't got a clue what that is. Write down 'small hairy thing' and Google it later."
“I haven’t got a clue what that is. Write down ‘small hairy thing’ and Google it later.”

Sturdy footwear required

You’re going to be up to your knees in shit. Don’t wear your best trainers.

Facilities here are basic

You’re peeing in the bushes.

The history of this place is fascinating

I Googled this place in the car half an hour before you showed up.

We could use machinery for this, but doing this manually is more sympathetic to the environment

We forgot to get petrol, the brushcutter is broken and besides we’ve got to give you something useful to do.

We’ll be clearing paths

We can’t think of anything for you to do but paths always need clearing.

This is how country folk do it

This will involve the use of accelerants, machinery and a reckless disregard for health and safety.

It’s “rustic”

We’ve made a complete pig’s ear of it.

That’ll do

That will fall apart in a week.

We coppiced this last year

We cut it down, and it grew back, so we’re saying we totally meant for that to happen.

Oliver Rackham said…

I read a bit of an Oliver Rackham book and I’m using it to make myself look clever for the rest of my life


I did a dynamic risk assessment

I decided whether or not doing that was going to kill me or not after I started doing it.

Clearing goat’s rue in Gutteridge Meadow

Last Friday I spent a day with London Wildlife Trust at Gutteridge Meadow, a beautiful strip of meadow sandwiched between Gutteridge Woods and the A40 with various jets taking off from RAF Northolt on the other side of the road. The wet meadow is a beautiful mix of grasses, meadow thistle and patches of bramble and dock, with Gutteridge Woods and Yeading Brook to the South.

Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) is a ruderal species, normally colonising wasteland, but is also happy in wet meadows. A native of the Middle East, it was introduced as a forage crop and is still found in gardens (Carol Klein was getting excited about some goat’s rue on the last Gardener’s World), but it’s invasive, forming thickets which shade out other species. It’s also toxic to livestock particularly when the seed pods are young. It was therefore necessary to pull it up from the meadow before it went to seed, which would only spread it further.

The tool of choice for this job was a Lazy Dog, a hand tool specifically designed for non-chemical individual removal of invasive weeds. It also looks like what a Klingon would garden with. The basic principle is to push the fork attachment under the root ball of the plant using the footplate before levering it out using the top handles. In practice, this involved occasional tripping over sideways, swearing at bits of root that didn’t want to come out, but mostly pretty successful removal of some large patches of goat’s rue. This was like meadow surgery, trying not to tread everything else in the meadow flat at the same time.

Even when we finished for the day, there was still masses of goat’s rue left. As with the Himalayan balsam (introduced by the Victorians) lining the banks of Yeading Brook and the River Crane, you could get demoralised when there is just so much of this stuff to clear, and limited time before it goes to seed and all your work seems to have been for nothing. Even this effort though will hopefully make a difference on a local level, and there is always the option to come back with sickles and slashers, and take the tops off the plants before they set seed.

It could be worse. In Snowdonia, Rhododendron ponticum (again, thanks Victorians) has completely invaded some areas, with massive plants shading out everything else and acidifying the soil. The clearance programme there is going to take years, and starts with cutting the mature plants down with pruning saws and chainsaws, burning the branches, leaving the stumps for three to five years and then spraying the new growth with glyphosate.

Sometimes conservation seems to boil down to removing stuff that’s in the wrong place and hoping that what was there to begin with decides to come back. I blame the Victorians.