Wulf's Webden

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Saturday 8 May 2021
by Wulf
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Framed

Inner Frame
Crop Support Frame

At the moment, our tomato plants are still tiny. They have begun putting on some growth since being planted out in the polytunnel but, by the end of this month, they will have started to grow apace and, if we don’t get some supports up soon, we’ll be kicking ourselves when they need tying up. This polytunnel doesn’t have crop support bars so it’s time for DIY-man to get out his tools again.

By the door, you can see one of the stakes that is helping hold the frame rigid. It is fastened into a metal stake, hammered into the ground, and there is one supporting every upright. I got some more 2.4m lengths of treated timber yesterday and this frame design bolts into support timbers on either side.

I’ve tried hard to keep things as simple as possible. The lengths I’m working with are halves and quarters of the original timber length, which avoids wastage. I did wonder if it would be stable and spent some time researching the engineering of support braces but decided to press ahead with a physical prototype. It turns out to be nice and sturdy with respect to lateral forces. It does have movement forward and back but that should be resolved when I add one or more runs of timber along the length.

I’ll decide on the design for that once I have completed all the sets of lateral supports. Working things out in theory is well and good but, as I’ve reminded myself today, there is nothing like trying a design out, either as a model or, if materials aren’t too expensive, at full scale.

Friday 7 May 2021
by Wulf
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Getting ahead(phones)

Last weekend I stumbled while walking around with my headphones plugged into my iPad and the cable popped off the connector. They’d given good service but they were pretty cheap and doing a repair looked tricky. I decided that I’d manage for a few days with my backup earbuds and invest in some new cans.

In fact, I decided to get two sets. The first pair were Gear4Music HP-210s. Pretty cheap but they are cheerful enough. Those will be my headphones for going out and about or my second pair for when I’m working on both my laptop and desktop machines and don’t want to keep switching the lead from one to the other. They aren’t wonderfully comfortable but they sound okay; on a par with previous sets I’ve owned.

The other pair are a step up. I haven’t gone crazy but I went for a set of AKG K52s. They are well-reviewed and, without a doubt, are the best cans I’ve ever owned; great sound, very comfortable and a decently long lead so I’ll be able to reach for instruments and other things when I’m using them for music production. What I won’t be using them for is walking around; I’d like to keep these ones for a good long time.

Thursday 6 May 2021
by Wulf
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Take a Pencil

Today sees a range of elections across the UK, for local councillors, police and crime commissioners, mayors and even national governments in Scotland and Wales. If you live in the UK, you are probably in the catchment area of a polling station.

Polling stations have all sorts of rules. I’ve got a feeling that one of them is that you should use the pencils provided to mark your ballot paper. That will make the marks more consistently reliable when it comes to counting. However, for this year, voters are “… encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot papers”. That was widely reported in news sources but I finally managed to track it down about about half way through an official statement released in March.

Jane and I visited the local polling station this morning. There were pencils available, along with instructions on where to put them after use (is one of the new jobs for station officers to disinfect the contents of the used bin during slack times?), but also no question raised about us using the ones we had taken along.

If you are eligible to vote and haven’t voted by post (probably a popular choice this year, with lingering infection concerns), then you should make it a priority to get down to your local polling station today. Scribe your crosses as directed or spoil the paper by scribbling “I don’t want any of this lot” across it but get onto it and make your mark.

Wednesday 5 May 2021
by Wulf
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The Glass Room

I have been known to return from the library and discover that one of the books in my haul is one that I’ve previously read. I still keep tabs on my library on the LibraryThing site and so I find out when I get round to entering another set of ‘read but unowned’ volumes. When you read a lot of books, titles and even plot summaries and first pages can easily be forgotten.

Sometimes though, you stumble across a book you missed in the series. Recently, I was able to return to visit Loughborough library in person and picked up The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves. I thought it was a new addition to the Vera series but it turns out the original publication date wasn’t 2020 (that edition) but 2012 (buried further down the page). However, it was one of those missing gems and means I’ve now read everything featuring Vera Stanhope to date except a short story called Frozen.

As well as filling a gap, it wasn’t a bad police detective novel either and also confirms my suspicion that Brenda Blethyn, who breathed life into the role on TV, is far too slim and glamourous based on the original descriptions. The programmes are still worth watching but the book series is even better to look into, whether through The Glass Room or another starting point.

Monday 3 May 2021
by Wulf
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A Day for Sitting in the Garden

There is a widely repeated quote that I remembered being ‘Scandanavian’: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. A little research suggests it can be found in A Coast to Coast Walk, written by Englishman Alfred Wainwright and published in 1973. Did he coin it or borrow it? As Abraham Lincoln said (*), don’t trust everything you read on the Internet. Whatever the true source, it came to mind today as I sat in the garden on this, the first properly wet day we’ve had for ages.

In the garden? Okay, in the polytunnel in the garden but it is a good halfway house. There is only a thin sheet of plastic between you and the elements. You hear the wind and rain but you also hear the birds, apparently unaware that you are almost within reach of them. At one point, I even had to rescue a robin, which flew in through the gap I’d left at the bottom of the zipped door. That’s the second time in a week — you have to open a gap, walk down to the far end of the tunnel and then slowly walk back so it can escape and tell its companions about the adventure.

When there is a bit of sun it is also about the cosiest place in our property to perch with a book and still did me for an hour or so. I’m looking forward to more sunny days but let it rain for a little while longer and I’ve still got a place to sit outside if I want it.

(*) … yes, tongue firmly in cheek with this attribution!

Sunday 2 May 2021
by Wulf
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Concrete Socks

Rats! We recently discovered that our kitchen had been visited by the, erm, big mice. We caught a couple with snap traps and haven’t seen any more for a few days. However, what we really want to do is keep them from getting in. Investigation showed what looked like a hole near the base of our extension where it joins the house. As far as we can tell, a gap was bodged with a bit of concrete or mortar which has subsequently fallen out. Unfortunately, the gap between our extension and the neighbours extension is narrow and, when you take into account the fence and concrete fence post, it is impassable. It is also inaccessible from the inside, due to the fitted kitchen. How could we block the hole without direct access?

That’s where the socks come in. I filled them with a wet mix of sand and cement and dropped them from the roof of the extension into the gap. We used a long pole to prod them right into the corner. The socks will eventually rot away but not until long after the mixture has hardened like stones shaped to fit each other. It’s hard to see whether it is completely covered and we were conscious of not wanting to come above the damp proof course, but we hope that this, along with a bit more cement where we could access under the cupboards inside will make it impassable for big rodents and perhaps even small ones too.