Wulf's Webden

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Friday 22 October 2021
by Wulf

Hard Grind

We harvested the last of our tomatoes this week. Some of the fruit was beginning to look the worse for wear, so we decided to cut our losses and get it in. I haven’t fully totalled up our full harvest yet but it is above double digits in kilograms, so a respectable yield.

This afternoon, I was grinding up the tomato plants to add to the compost heap. I’ve got a manually operated grinder, which has done me many years of service and got good use from my dad before he passed it onto me. We had been thinking about investing in an electric grinder but, having spent some time perusing reviews, I think I’ll leave it for now. Even the top rated models get a lot of comments that they struggle at the top end of their rated range (typically about 45mm) and that they don’t do much at all at the lower end of the range.

Most of the tomato plants were 10mm or less and a lot of the stuff we need to process is below that. We have a small garden and have to keep things down to reasonable size for the space available. At some point, I won’t have the energy to keep turning the handle but, while I do, I think I’ll stick with the tried and tested solution, fuelled by muscle power rather than whichever power station supplies us.

Thursday 21 October 2021
by Wulf

Sycamore Pulling

This week, the local ‘Green Gym’ session was moved to Thursday morning which meant I had a chance to participate (normally it is on Wednesdays when, normally, I am busy). That did mean the volunteer team was small (two of us and one had to leave early) but it was still worthwhile.

Today’s task was pulling sycamore saplings. Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) may have been introduced to the UK in Roman times but its advent is often dated to about five hundred years ago and it is regarded as an invasive non-native in woodland areas. It isn’t directly harmful and it does support wildlife but it spreads fast and threatens to outcompete other species. As a result, the management plan for areas such as Loughborough’s Outwoods, where the session took place, involves removing it.

Sycamore is still fairly easy to spot at this time of year, with distinctive leaves which are turned a long way to yellow and will soon be dropping. Armed with a mattock, I set about rooting up saplings and, by the end of the morning, had a fairly substantial pile. There is more to do but it keeps the edge off and ensures that the woodland will be more characteristically native in future.

Tuesday 19 October 2021
by Wulf

The Most Important Element?

Call it a eucharistic celebration, holy communion or the Lord’s table but it is all essentially the same thing – the Christian practice of recalling that Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and that his blood was poured out on the cross for the remission of our sins (and, implied, that he rose again demonstrating his victory over sin and death). Exactly how we do that (ritual) and how we think about it (theology) varies widely between denominations, congregations and to some extent, even between individuals. There is broad agreement though that we retell the story with something representing bread and something representing wine; these are called the ‘elements’.

Roll on 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Many denominations, including the Church of England, have a sacerdotal fixation. In other words, only those ordained as priests are allowed to perform certain duties, including presiding over communion, so there were questions during lockdown about how communion could be performed remotely and whether it counted in family groups and for people isolated on their own. I have opinions on that but it isn’t what I’m pondering today. In England, as churches began to emerge from lockdown and we could conduct services, the question then arose of how we could celebrate communion together. In my church, and many others, a decision was made to move from bread to wafers and to celebrate ‘in one kind’. In other words, only the priest drinks the (small amount of) consecrated wine while the wafers are distributed by the priest to the congregation.

Hand sanitisation has become part of the ritual and I think it reasonably minimises the risk of spreading infection. I deeply value the shift from congregants going forward to be served to the priest making the rounds of the congregation and serving each person in place. I think that is a valuable picture of the role of a Christian leader. However, what about the wine?

My understanding is that the Church of England now supports three practices – continuing with bread only, returning to a shared chalice as before or ‘simultaneous administration’. Bread only is not in itself a novelty. Some churches were doing this anyway and it has plenty of historical precedent. Advocates of a shared cup argue that the alcohol in the wine on the silver of the chalice is a natural antiseptic, although my attempt at a literature review did not find strong evidence-based research demonstrating this (nor, to be fair, research demonstrating the opposite). I think ‘simultaneous administration’ is the priest dipping the bread in the wine (intinction) before passing it over. Other methods, like individual glasses or the congregant dipping the bread themselves are not permitted by the Church of England.

If the archbishops would care to come and chat with me, I’d present a strong case for seedless black or red grapes. That would be a natural alternative – the basis of wine, packaged in its own skin and also solving the problem for those who struggle with alcoholism – and would be as hygienic as the accompanying wafers. However, until that happens or the infection rate in England shifts significantly downward, I’m happy to continue in one kind. I miss the way the picture is completed with the wine but, if we added that back, I think we’d risk losing an even more important element – widespread participation from the congregation. If people excluded themselves from participation or, worse still, stayed away from the service entirely, we would lose more: we are the body of Christ.

Monday 18 October 2021
by Wulf

Almost Christmas

I know that, by the calendar we have over two months to go but the local Lidl already has a wide selection of Christmas goodies out, on the opposite side of the display with all the Halloween sweets. I try to ignore the attempts of shops to direct my seasons but I’ve got different reasons for perusing my carol books tonight. In my role as worship pastor, it falls to me to take a leading role in preparing Christmas music and I need to get started on that well before stir-up Sunday.

As an extra ingredient this year, there is the uncertainty over whether things will proceed as they are at the moment or if COVID-19 will scupper plans for another year. We’d like to have a carol service but will people want to come and sing? Can we accommodate the demand without squeezing in too tightly? And, importantly, what will we sing?

I’m minded to keep the overall service shorter than normal – five or six lessons and carols might be ample and that way we bring down risk by limiting duration. My thoughts are leaning in the direction of shepherds. Maybe, instead of trying to shoehorn in the whole story and all the characters, I can particularly focus on those rough and ready witnesses? I must remember not to be over ambitious and to make sure I include some familiar favourites (although I’d love to just stick to folk tradition carols) but I’ve at least made a start on pondering.

If you want an early dose, here is a lovely rendition of one of the pieces I’m considering:

Shepherds Arise, performed by Hermitage Green

Sunday 17 October 2021
by Wulf

Engraving on Windows

Up until recently, I’d done most of my music editing using Lilypond (the engine) and Frescobaldi (the graphical interface), two excellent Open Source tools. I was running them in a virtual Linux machine hosted on my MacBook and I’ve still got the option of doing that. However, my Window desktop machine has become my main machine for the time being and so I’m experimenting with running the Windows versions.

So far, mainly so good. I can do all the editing I need. The main thing I haven’t figured out how to do yet is to install some alternative fonts. I can do different fonts for the text but what I’d like to achieve is a font that looks like the jazz charts I’m used. So far, searching online hasn’t turned up anything useful. I’ve got the font I want installed on Windows but can’t figure out how to activate it. Not a show stopper though.

Longer term, I can always run a virtual Linux box on Windows but it will do what I need for now, even if not everything I want. And, the big advantage of running on Lilypond, all my scores are simple text files that can be easily ported between different systems.

Saturday 16 October 2021
by Wulf

Sacred Bean

Tonight, our church was host to an evening Darren Howie and some of his team from Sacred Bean Coffee in Derby. Darren had attended one of our virtual men’s breakfasts last year but it was even better to meet him in person and smell (and sample) the coffee he was talking about.

Sacred Bean is a non-profit social enterprise that is particularly linked with ethical trading, for its coffee, and support of “people overcoming life-controlling issues” (eg. addiction, post-prison rehabilitation, etc) by training and employing them. I enjoy my coffee but I’m not a true aficionado and most of the time I use a relatively sloppy methodology. Yes, I grind my own beans and don’t scald the coffee with boiling water but I don’t (normally) measure coffee to water ratios, water temperature and brewing time.

The particular thing I learned tonight about coffee was the difference between under-extracted (sour) and over-extracted (bitter) brews; in the practical exercise, we spent a long time setting up our brew (cafetière on my table) but didn’t leave it quite long enough. At first it was a bit sour and weak but, trying again a couple of minutes later, it had transformed into an excellent drink.

Darren doesn’t just talk about coffee. He also shared something of his journey from addiction to hard drugs, prison, meeting Jesus and becoming an Anglican priest (and how he has ended up in his present ministry). He also commented on the pictures we can see in the process of making a good cup of coffee. There’s the aspect of ritual as something humans are drawn to – familiar from both drug addiction and the drama of Holy Communion. There is also the story of the coffee bean (or, more accurately, seed), which is affected by how and where it is cultivated but then also refined by the roaster and transformed into something wonderful.

I haven’t visited their café but next time I’m in Derby (or have half an excuse to be there) I think I’ll pay them a visit.

Friday 15 October 2021
by Wulf

Looking Down on the Back Garden – October 2021

Looking Down on the Garden - October 2021
Back Garden – October 2021

Since last month, that Virginia Creeper has really caught fire, with an even more vivid display than the one I caught last year. Here is the October 2020 picture for comparison, the first of my ‘looking down’ series for this garden. See how many other changes you can spot:

Back Garden - October 2020
Back Garden – October 2020