Wulf's Webden

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Monday 23 May 2022
by Wulf
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Council compost

We needed to pop to a local council recycling centre today to drop of some bags of garden waste we didn’t want to compost. That was stuff like all the tiny calla lily bulblets, which seem to spring up an unwanted plant from a tiny piece. Hopefully the hot, bulk compost that the council can carry out will see those finished off. It’s a lovely plant in the right place but not one we wanted and certainly not as a ghost popping up in all sorts of spots.

We went to the Whetstone Recycling and Household Waste Site on the southwest side of Leicester. That’s out of our regular patch but is the only place in the county that presently offers the bags of compost and at least was an opportunity to build up our wider sense of geography. It’s not high grade stuff — the chap at the site made sure to point out it was better called ‘soil conditioner’ — but I’m looking for something to cover large areas cheaply rather than to get delicate seeds started and I think it will do the trick.

On the subject of cost, I knew it was cheaper than garden centre bags but I got curious about how much I was losing out compared to bulk bag offers. Delivery of such would be tricky, with suppliers often specifying kerbside delivery and emphasising all the challenges of negotiating narrow streets with HGVs. I plugged products from several sources into a simple spreadsheet – cost, volume in litres and thence cost per litre (plus cost per 50l and 100l for easy comparison with regular bags).

The council stuff comes in 40l bags at £3.25 a pop. We easily fitted ten in the boot and I reckon we could have sunk ten more without straining beyond capacity. That works out to about 8p a litre or £4.06 if it came in a 50l bag. It turns out that the next cheapest was Ningbo multipurpose at 10p a litre or £5.13 for 50l (and based on a 1000l bulk bag). It might be a little better quality but, for every 4l of Ningbo, I could get an extra litre of the council stuff.

All I need now is for the council to start offering the bags at the local recycling centre again. Better yet, if they opened up a nearby place where I could fill my own containers for an even cheaper price. Still, it was definitely worth doing the price comparison.

Sunday 22 May 2022
by Wulf
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Doubling up with the wind band

So far in my tenure with the Charnwood Symphonic Wind Orchestra, I’ve been playing electric bass. It’s been good to get my sight reading chops better and works very well with most of the pieces. However, it has always been my intention to also have double bass as an option there and I took it along for the first time tonight. We have a couple of gigs coming up where there won’t be a power supply so I’ll do one on the double bass and one with a borrowed battery powered amp but I needed to check the double bass was feasible.

For the pieces we are playing, it turns out to be mainly so. It also helps that it’s hard to hear me behind all the wind and brass instruments. A good number of my mistakes were well hidden! Anyway, I think it will be good enough for next weekend and we’ll see how it works in an outdoor context and possibly with a bit of bowing (something to practise over the next week).

Saturday 21 May 2022
by Wulf
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Not Looking Back

We passed through Oxford today on the way to visit some friends. It was a great city to have lived in, particularly with the privilege of access to libraries and other resources that came with working for the University, but I don’t wish we were still there although I’d love to have some of the people and opportunities closer. Even after only about two and half years away, it was clear the city was moving on without us.

It made me reflect back on our time in London too. I think I can safely say that our patch of Lewisham was less pretty than central Oxford. It also has good people there and lots of fascinating things that we don’t have on our doorstep anymore but I don’t hanker for returning there either. Nor to any of the other places I’ve lived either.

I wouldn’t actively run from a chance to live in York again, should an opportunity come up at the right time, but I’m in no rush to move and I know that it would be a very different city from the one I inhabited in my spotty student days. There’s no point looking back. Nostalgia can be stirred but the old places can never truly be revisited. Instead, I’m resolved to keep pressing forward into each new day that God gives me.

Friday 20 May 2022
by Wulf
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Chamomile?

Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile)
Chamomile?

One of the plants growing naturally and abundantly on my allotment plot is this white and yellow flower with feather leaves. Could it be chamomile? Initially, I thought it might be corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) but, having brought a sample home and looked more closely alongside various reference books, I’m leaning towards it being Matricaria chamomilla instead, also known as scented mayweed and the source of most commercial chamomile tea.

It certainly has a chamomile smell and hasn’t promoted any allergic reaction with general handling. I’ve taken the next step of washing a flower and rubbing it on my lips and that also seems clear. The next step will be ingesting a small amount and, if that also has no side effects, I’ll try dehydrating some of the flowers and making a brew.

If it does turn out to be plain old edible chamomile, then rather than weeding it out, I’ll weed around it and it will become my first crop on the new plot!

Thursday 19 May 2022
by Wulf
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Clearing Progress

I’m gradually making progress on clearing the bulk of the weeds from the plot:

Weed Clearing - Thursday 19 May
Today’s progress

Roughly speaking, I’ve got about half the plot cleared, quarter cleared down to a ‘low fuzz’ and about quarter still to tackle (although I have picked out anything that looked like it was about to go to seed from that section). I don’t need to get everything out as I’m planning on adopting a no dig approach, covering the ground with newspaper or cardboard to cut off all light and then piling a good quantity of compost on top to plant into. That will kill off many weeds but I do want to get established, deeply rooted ones out which might otherwise have the energy to thrust up through whatever I plant on top.

It is quite painstaking work. I know some allotmenteers just go at it with a rotavator. However, it does mean I’m getting to know the ground well. It seems reasonably decent soil and there’s nothing particularly pernicious that I’ve come across so far in terms of weeds or pests. There are plenty of things like ladybirds, ladybird larvae and ground beetles that I am happy to play host to. I’ve also found a few bonus crops hiding among the weeds – so far a red onion, what looks to be a couple of shallots and a garlic plant.

By the time I’ve done a few more sessions, I should have a clearer plan for how I want to lay things out and be ready to push on further.

Wednesday 18 May 2022
by Wulf
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A Handy Video

Big is the Mountain

I had a request this morning to sing Big is the Mountain with the toddlers group rather than the song I had in mind and I don’t have the chords stored in the collection of tunes on my iPad. Fortunately, it turns out that the video I did for it last month was not only on ukulele (the instrument I had with me) but clearly showed the chord shapes I was using. Given that, yes I can play it!

Tuesday 17 May 2022
by Wulf
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Ukraine Benefit Gig

Ukraine Benefit Gig

Last Saturday’s gig with the Charnwood Symphonic Wind Orchestra is available to watch online. Band portions come among other performers (including kicking off about 14.5 minutes in with The Mandalorian) and, if you look closely, you can see me sitting in the back row by the door on the left. I’m next to the double bassist and you can’t see my electric bass although you can hear it blending into the mix in the excellent sound quality that the technical team managed to capture.

If you watch or skip to the end (2:27:50), you can also hear the ensemble performance of the Ukrainian national anthem which I’ve developed a soft spot for as we’ve been rehearsing it. Fantastic to hear it with the lyrics (in Ukrainian)!