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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

the lockdown log 72


My weight loss efforts just can’t get traction. I have a couple of good days and then there will be something that needs eating, or throwing, and I can’t abide waste. The other problem at the moment is bread. Both add calories.

The Berkshire Belle loves sourdough and, whilst we have good, local, source in Hobbs House, she wants me to bake it. Now I enjoy making bread. Twenty odd years ago she bought me a one day bread baking course and I have baked regularly since, albeit that I often resort to our Panasonic bread machine. Homemade bread is great, but I am trying to keep my carb intake down…

So far my first couple of sourdough loaves have not been good. They have been edible, but would not have won me any plaudits. I will keep trying and see what I can do, but I am finding it very frustrating, especially as we could just buy one.

As I know that I am not doing well enough on losing weight I have stopped weighing in. abject cowardice perhaps, but that is my decision for now. I really have too many other things to worry about right now.

Bread making has been eating into my time and so I have spent less in the garden. On the other hand I have been trying to put in about half an hour each day in de-cluttering. It is all necessary work and there is a bit of a feel good factor in doing it. There is just so much to do.

This week we have been out to celebrate thirty years of marriage. Our first lunch expedition for a while and we found ourselves the only customers. The food was good although it took a long time to arrive. We suspect that someone had to go out and buy the bread, but it was good enough when it arrived although it was one of those meals where the idea behind the dish could have been better. Still, we have been out, and the next few weeks see a run of special days; two birthdays and thirty two years together fall between now and early October so we are looking forward to a few more lunches.

I also have four weeks holiday booked in two lots of two weeks each. We will not do a lot, but hope to try and do something a bit different. A day out to the Isle of Wight is one that we will look at.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 71


Life here in North Wiltshire continues pretty much the same. Most people are still masking up to go shopping and there is little sign of change. Some people have gone away now that the schools have broken up, but few amongst the people that we know are venturing abroad other than some of my colleagues from Eastern Europe who have gone back home to visit family. Most of these drive and aim to make the trip in around a day and a half driving pretty much non-stop with two or more drivers taking turns.

For those of us who live here most seem to have abandoned thoughts of a trip abroad on the grounds of risk and cost. We have too and gave up on our plans for a return to the US for a second year and are now starting to wonder if we will ever go back. Given our advancing years maybe we have seen the last of long distance travel, but maybe the world will start to get a grip on Covid and things will both open up and look safer. Time will tell, but we are running out of it.

On that note we are looking to organise our cremations so that all of that sort of thing is taken care of when the time comes. It is not a subject that is easy to deal with, although I seem to be more pragmatic than the Berkshire Belle on these things. It is also crossing my mind to have another look at living wills in case either of us does loose our marbles. We talked about this when we made our joint wills and were told that we had just missed the boat for doing them in an economical fashion so we let the idea pass. Maybe we should look at it again.

I have not lost weight for another week. I am trying to stay positive about this and am reading up on how the body processes food from the perspective of type 2 diabetes to try and see if there is something there that will help me break out of this impasse. It is possible that I do have a bit of muscle build up; The last two weeks have been very physical in many ways with more heavy lifting that usual and I am noticing a change in muscle tone around my upper arms, amongst other places.

Being stuck at 106.5 kg is not so bad in many ways and is a lot better than being 123 kg as I was back at the start. Maybe I just need to change diet again as that sometimes has worked in the past. It does seem as though I am getting my head back around the need to shift weight and the old target of 100 kg is calling me again.

Into August now and out weather is weird. As I sit here after lunch typing the wind is howling around the upstairs windows and rain showers are sweeping through at irregular intervals. Just as I typed those words the sun has come out and the temperature has climbed as it should, but there are more black clouds rolling in. The poor plants don’t know what to do with themselves.

Apart from the wind and rain keeping me away from the jobs I need to do up the ladder my last go at that work on Monday has brought me back out in a rash. I had this problem last year and have not yet worked out which of the climbing plants that I am clearing I am allergic to. I think that it is one of the varieties of ivy, but what I have been clearing includes three types of that plant plus a hop, a grape vine and another one that I have forgotten the name of. Between planting by my neighbour and I these things have grown together over the years and the rapid spells of wet and warm weather over the last 6 weeks have seen rampant growth that needs cutting back. Insects and dust abound within this undergrowth and something there does not like me. Even with arms covered and wearing gauntlets something has gotten through and, if last year is anything to go by, I face a couple of weeks of discomfort before it goes away.

Stay safe wherever you are and thanks for looking in.

the lockdown log 70


Another one of those weeks when the scales were unkind. I had been fairly good on food intake and Monday through Wednesday had been very physical days where I ought to have been burning off the calories. I was feeling good and had been boosted by getting into a pair of 42 waist trousers for the first time in probably 12 or more years. It was looking good for the weigh-in until I got on the scales and they tried hard to take back the half kilo that I had lost last week. In the end they timed out showing the same as last week.

I responded to this by having a silly day and eating things that I should not have had, but then remorse kicked in and I am going to have a sensible week. At least I am for now…

Work is still getting the best side of me and I try to do the best that I can there, but I have been goofing off a bit outside of work and need to get a grip on some of the things that need doing around the house and garden.

I am also still having technical issues with blogging and have not yet managed to sort out my preferred device despite having spent a couple of lengthy sessions trying to resolve things. Another frustration that I can do without at the moment, but never mind. I can still rely of the old beast that I am writing the on albeit that Jingles, one of our rescue cats, has taken to spending her afternoons sleeping on the keyboard.

Anyway, just a quick offering this week and I will try to do better next time.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 69


This time last year major progress was being made in the deck refurbishment and extension and so it is depressing me slightly that, having achieved so much in the last twelve months, I am not finishing off the last parts of that grand plan. It is all silly things; some days it has been so hot that the paint would have dried on the brush even if the blizzard of Silver Birch seeds had not been falling. It is frustrating to be so close, two or three afternoons should do it, but not being able to get on with it.

General maintenance jobs keep me busy whilst trying to not spend more than about 30 minutes at a time out there in the heat. I do still have two foxes lurking around the neighbourhood, but they are not digging everything up now so what we have left in the way of plants are beginning to thrive. I have one cucumber and several tomatoes coming along in the greenhouse and we have had a few strawberries, tayberries and raspberries although those crops have been disappointing this year. We’ve also had a lot of salad leaves of varying sorts, but those are pretty much done now.

The scales gave me another half kilo off this week, so 106.5 and heading, slowly, the right way. I have gone past 1500 miles walked so far this year and am thinking about going back to afternoon exercise walks to supplement the calory burn. The target of 100 kg is still there taunting me, but can I get to, or beyond, it? This last week I have been feeling a bit weird each evening as I go to start organising dinner and have put this down to having had much less for lunch that usual. I have felt better once I have eaten my evening meal even if, for most of the last week, that has been a salad with some form of protein; blackened chicken one night, crab on another for example. What do I want most; to eat or to lose more weight? Only I can answer that one and I just need to channel my obsession down the right path.

With some dud weather coming up for the weekend I am trying to plan a few jobs that I can do under cover, but I have a feeling that I will end up lazing about doing nothing in particular. A couple of days of “I can’t be bothered” won’t do me any harm and might just allow me a bit of thinking time to plan a few things. It looks as though the salads will be off the menu and I might have to do a bit of cooking again. That will keep me amused, but proximity to food sources for an hour or so will test my will power.

At work we are still masked up and I am still wearing my mask when I go shopping as are most other people as far as my own observations are concerned. Despite what the media have been spouting about empty shelves I have not seen one myself and there seems to be plenty of stock about. I often wonder if the problem is actually a surplus and stories of shortages are spread to encourage overbuying…

I hope that you are not suffering shortages of supplies and that you can stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 68


I will start with the good news; the scales gave me 107 kg this week, so 4 kg down from last week and that makes it look even more like the 111kg was a spurious reading. What went wrong? Atmospheric pressure? Sun spots? I don’t know, but I am reassured that I am back on track.

The jolt that I got from the dodgy numbers last week did give me some motivation to try and focus. I have not gone into starvation mode, but have tried to cut back on intake and to be a little more thoughtful about what I am eating. The latter can be hard, especially when a certain voice calls through from the kitchen asking if I knew that such and such needs eating by today. Obviously not or I would have had that rather than what I have on my plate, but such circumstances tend to see me eating my share of the about to run out of date food in addition to what I had portioned out for myself. The difference is that a couple of weeks back I would probably have buttered some bread and made a sandwich whereas now I just eat whatever it is and cut out the extra carbs.

Out in the garden the foxes are still passing through and we get the odd signs of the passing, but the damage has largely stopped. Other pests have made an appearance though; blackfly, greenfly, caterpillars, slugs and snails to the fore and the constant battle has moved on. The wet, but warm, weather had seen growth rocket and with it the amount of time needed for basic maintenance is eating into getting projects done. The big Silver Birch in my neighbour’s garden is now shedding its seeds and, even with no real breeze, standing on the deck is like being in a minor blizzard which means that finishing the deck repaint is on hold for a week or two.

I am hoping to be able to get on with building a table for the barbeque in the coming week as that will mean that I have the table available and can get the barbeque off the floor and can also, perhaps, use the damn thing although I have never understood the attraction of standing out in the heat cooking on something that is even hotter. We are planning lots of things salad based for the coming week.

With the 19th approaching we have no plans to ditch our masks. Down in these parts we are also seeing a surge in C-19 cases and we will be staying safe to reduce the risk of being sorry. We are plotting going out for lunch one day soon though and one of the local pubs will be seeing us all being well.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 65


Life goes on for us and whilst I am calm about lockdown it is bothering the Berkshire Belle considerably. I am content wearing my mask; she is not, yet if we fail to spot the sanitation station at the store entrance (or are too preoccupied to notice), she can get quite stressed when she realises that we have not added that layer of protection. The oddities in the changing regulations bother her too; why can large crowds attend sporting events when you can’t have a concert and so on. None of this interests me in the slightest and I cannot give her any answers as to why these things are as they are. I just accept them as facts and get on with my day.

I suppose that it is my innate habit of ignoring anything that I cannot influence. It works for me and I do my best to let all of this just wash over me. Yes it is affecting my life, but I have adapted and just live a different life. I used to do this to some degree when we spent as much time as we could in the USA and I would tell people that we were not on holiday, just living there instead of here. And that is largely true because from the second trip onwards we did little that was touristy, rather we settled into trying to live as much like locals as we could. It was a different life to here and one that we liked better. Covid life is not like the one that we knew and it is not so good, but it is the one that we have and I do my best with it.

One this that I have noticed recently is the way that fuel prices have risen. I am notorious for not looking at what I have paid for fuel, but I do remember a point during lockdown about 12 months ago when I paid less than £1 per litre for unleaded. This week I spotted at the Esso station that I pass on the way to and from work that the litre price was up to £1.319. Pre-lockdown it was about 122.9 to 124.9 per litre, so it makes a bit of a difference, but I do not use too much these days and I am glad about that.

We have been out a bit this week and the Berkshire Belle has had two trips; one over to Cheltenham to the bigger Waitrose supermarket there and then a three shop trip locally the next day when we did a garden centre, Marks and Spencer and Lidl in a mini orgy of retail. It is important that I keep getting her out, even if these trips are hardly full of excitement. We talked a lot this week about going out to lunch one day, but did not come to any conclusions beyond the uncertainty of whether we would enjoy ourselves. Given the lady’s dislike of lockdown protocols as mentioned above it does, for her, take away much of the pleasure and if she is not having a good time, then nor am I. We stayed in for all of our meals and, in all probability, actually ate more healthily that had we dined out. Certainly it was cheaper.

There is no rush for us to book any holiday yet. Our preferred destination is America, but things are so bad over there that we are concerned about going. We have talked about a shorter trip to, say, Dubai, but that, as a major hub, is firmly red-zoned for now. It will probably be another year for us with no holiday now. We have no interest in going to Europe at the moment, even if they would have us, nor in a UK tour, so it will be making plans for 2022 by the look of it.

This coming weekend I have an appointment with the scales. It is a year since I had the diabetic diagnosis that spurred me into a concerted effort to lose weight and I need to see where I am and, perhaps, try and kick start another drive towards getting under 100kg. The Berkshire Belle has had a splendid result from her own diet. Her numbers are her affair and not to be shared here, but she has done very well and I am proud of her efforts. It is causing her some issues in that she has few clothes that fit and her normal sources, various US chains, are not readily available to her. We are working on that from a mail order perspective though.

In the garden we are still having fox problems although we seem to be down to two now. Mrs Reynard has not been seen for a few days and the dark red coloured youngster has also been AWOL lately. The remaining pair have possibly picked up on Mummy’s talent for killing pigeons though judging by the evidence and neither looks to be going hungry. Whilst the are still living in neighbouring gardens ours is still the preferred place for burying food as we have the well turned flower beds and planters that our neighbours lack. July is around the time that the cubs usually push off and find new homes so maybe only another.couple of weeks…

My efforts to build a new base for our mini-Kamodo BBQ have probably caused this latest downturn in the weather. Honest Mother Nature, I didn’t want to use it, just to get it up off the deck so that I could finish painting said deck. I am getting very tempted again to buy a pop-up gazebo to work under: It would protect me form both sun and rain after all.

Anyway, that is it for me for this week. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 64


There are days when I am very low and this is one of them. I hurt in all sorts of places and, for one of them, in ways that I am not familiar with and am therefore slightly bothered by the unusual sensations. It is easy to joke about; “If I had known that I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself” sort of thing, but feeling physically crap does tend to drag the mind down with it.

It is probably no more than that I overdid things on the previous two days when it was hot and I was trying to get as much done before the promised severe weather arrived. As it happens our bit of the UK did not get any severe weather at all, just a light breeze and a bit of rain so I need not have pushed so hard. I forget sometime that I am in the fag end of my sixties and, although I do take more precautions and care than I did even ten years ago things do tend to take their toll.

My malaise is therefore self-inflicted and I shall just have to let it pass. I am being bloody minded about it and have not reached for the paracetamol. I will see how I feel come bedtime and maybe take a couple then if I think that they might help me sleep, but I think that I am likely to be so tired that I will not even want to lie in bed and read for an hour as I usually do.

I have got a lot done in the garden as referred to above and there is some satisfaction in that even if it has come at a price. Progress is very visible now and the vison that I had eighteen months ago is starting to become a reality. There is still a lot to do, but it will keep me amused for months to come.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 57


On Tuesday I have my second Pfizer Covid vaccination. I felt a bit odd later in the day and had the bizarre experience of my right arm being uncomfortable at the same point that I had had the jab in my left one. Weird, but that’s how it was and I went off somewhat through the day. I took a couple of singleton paracetamol during the day and then two at bedtime. Next day I felt rotten, but went into work and ploughed on before going home to collapse in a heap and have a quiet second half to the day and today I feel fine again.

Here in North Wiltshire I had a few windy days when trying to sand down and paint was not a good idea, especially with my neighbour’s silver birch shedding its catkins by the hundredweight and so I contented myself with pruning, weeding and working on some anti fox measures. Not much has been done on finishing the bit of the fence and deck that I wanted to have done by the end of April and that is a deadline that is now gone. So it goes and I will get that bit finished soon as I have everything I need to hand. During the general tidy up I found myself looking at the essential elements of the garden that I had planned out back in the 2019/20 Winter so I am getting close to the main goal.

The foxes are giving me all sorts of trouble. They practice their digging in my garden and are destroying plants at an astonishing rate. They use my garden as a dining room too and I spend time every day clearing up after them. The four babies are growing well and should be leaving for their own territories soon at which point I shall start to work on closing off every access point that I can find to stop them getting under the deck. Mrs Reynard is a deadly birder and regularly catches starlings and pigeons to feed her brood.

The Berkshire Belle has got the bug for doing the weekly food shop again and today was her third or fourth run out in a row. She buys far more than I do and we have a house stuffed with food so that, apart from one or two essentials like bread and milk we will not need to shop next week. We are eating well and I think that that keeps us healthy too.

After my disastrous weigh in last week I have reverted to my old eating regime and have lost all of what I put on so I am happy with that. I am not making any special efforts to cut down on my intake, but I am putting more salad type things into my sandwiches and wraps for work; tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber for example to perk them up rather than a dash of mustard or ketchup. It is tiny steps, but maybe it helps mentally. I don’t know why the change to my eating habits caused a spike, perhaps it was something like fluid retention. Odd, but changing back has me back on course and so that will do.

Our plans for a holiday later this year are fading. We had pretty much given up on going back to the USA again, but were thinking about maybe Dubai. That though seems to be out too as it is a major hub and therefore is regarded as a potential Covid hotspot. We do not fancy anywhere in Europe looking at the Covid position there and so this could be a second year that we go nowhere. In thirty two years together we blew out in 2016 for a number of reasons, but that was the first year in which we did. to have at least one holiday abroad until last year. Now it looks like two on the bounce, but we will have to suck it up. I have a week off later this month and we might try and have a day out if regulations permit.

So there we are, both double vaccinated and in rude health. I hope that you are all well too and staying safe wherever you are.

on gardening and leadership


Like many of us in lockdown, or seclusion as some overseas are calling it, I am spending more time in my garden than I probably would have done, although, for me, I am still working on a project that was conceived around the time that Covid-19 was taking hold in China and we were still in blissful ignorance of what was about to descend on the world.

Gardening gives you time to think and one of those random thoughts that have passed through my grey cells as I have been weeding and pruning is how much of what I have been doing in my front and back yards ties in to the leadership lessons that I have learned down the years.

It may seem odd that such solitary activities give rise to thoughts of leading, but one of the crucial talents that a leader needs is self discipline. Without that it is easy to lose focus and drift off track. In the business world you are dealing with customers, suppliers, competitors and regulators who create a dynamic environment much of which you cannot control despite any effort to influence it. The expression juggling chainsaws is a little extreme, but is not far off the mark at times and the person at the top of the team needs to be watching, evaluating, re-calculating, delegating, motivating, monitoring, planning and driving. Focus is essential.

Out in the garden things may seem more relaxed with just you and the vegetation, but that is an illusion to some degree for the equivalent of your business marketplace is nature and she never sleeps. Weeds are just plants that you don’t want and they are usually the most successful. They are resilient because they are left to evolve to their strengths; they compete to survive. Cultivated plants are much weaker as they are bred for other things and they need much more care to enable them to survive and flourish. The slugs, snails and aphids all ignore my weeds, but will destroy the stuff that I have spent my hard earned cash on in hours. Leadership 101 really; life is not fair and shit happens.

Tending to the garden requires planning, but also the ability to church the lan out of the window tom deal with the unexpected. Take weather. You check the forecasts (two or three at least) to get a feel for what is coming up. Like any business forecast the data will get less robust the further away you move, but, also like in business, the forecasts rarely agree exactly and you plan on worst case or maybe averaging the predictions depending on what you have in mind. What you get is rarely what you expect and you make do with what you get (sound familiar; sales forecasts anyone, or maybe delivery dates?).

Looking after a garden also means a lot of boring drudgery work, but you have to do it. Time management is all over this. You set aside maybe half an hour do do some pruning or weeding, but once you start you find something else and, if you are not focused you are still at it an hour later to the detriment of something else and you are on the back foot as far as getting what you planned for the day done. Pruning is a case in point for me as last week I decided to tackle the ivy growing over from next door where it has wrecked one of my fence panels. The plan was to strip the ivy, pull out what was left of the old panel and replace it with a new one that has been sat there since last year (when I was planning on doing it, but got distracted…). It should have taken me about 15 minutes to strip enough ivy to do the job, but an hour and a half later the Berkshire Belle was at the back door enquiring when I planned to cook her dinner; I had almost cleared the length of the fence.

These mindless tasks are a minefield for me. Sometimes I get bored immediately, give up and move on to something else which leaves a problem getting worse (and needing more time when I do get around to it), but at other times I get into the groove with my eyes and hands working on their own whilst my mind wanders off into, well anything really. I have to really work hard at keeping on track and it is an area where a leader’s followers need to pick up the tone because if they see you wandering off track where do you think that they will go? Do what needs doing and if that is not what you had planned then be sure you understand why you are changing tack and when you need to be turning back onto a course to recover.

I do. not mean to imply that gardening is a high stress environment, but then neither is leadership all of the time and when you have either activity under a modicum of control then both can be quite relaxing and certainly both will give pleasure. In that last sentence the key word is probably control. Whilst many of us get an element of pleasure from the gang-ho antics of firefighting and a good panic now and again can be fun in the aftermath, being in control is far better.

I will be back in the garden later weaving the essential periodic maintenance tasks into my various projects that make ups the overall strategy and doing my best to keep it all on track using the resources that I have whilst staying within my budget. Sound familiar?

the lockdown log 55


I’m writing this in the sunshine having had a decent day with various jobs. We went out shopping together earlier, the Berkshire Belle very frightened of being out, but she did it. My concern is that the more she hides away the harder it will become to get her out and so I will continue to push her to have an outing a week now.

This afternoon I have finished the repairs to one section of the deck and am happy with the new solid and level section. Now I can block off my neighbour’s disintegrating fence and get on with the next stage of painting and will be able to see something that I can call complete before moving on to the next part of the great garden project.

The poxy foxes are steadily destroying the back garden. The four babies are practising their digging and are already able to tell flowers and vegetables from weeds.The latter they will not touch, but everything else is fair game. It has become a continuous battle between us with me trying to thwart them and them me. So far they are winning. Add in the debris from what their mum brings them home to eat and it really is not too much fun at the moment, made worse by the fact that they live next door and just use our garden as a creche and dining room.

Fortunately they haven’t worked out how to get into the greenhouse and I have all sorts of stuff growing happily in there. It is amazing how quickly the space has been filled up although I do still have room for the tomatoes that are on order. Once the weather warms up I can get some of it planted out assuming that I can build adequate fox defences. (From the corner of my eye I can see the little bleeders are back). Another month and they will probably be ready to head off and fend for themselves.

I find my mood swings are quite pronounced at the moment and I can go from one end of the spectrum to the other at the flick of a switch. Half off the time don’t know what triggers a change and try hard not to bother too much, but when you plunge into the abyss it is no fun. Overall I have lost the feeling of generally being well and all sorts of odd niggles are developing. There is something amiss in my neck that is causing occasional clicks that are loud enough for the Berkshire Belle to hear from the other end of the sofa. Changing pillows has not helped, but I have started wearing my neck pillow that I bought for flying long haul. It seems to help in that, when watching TV, it holds my head at the right angle without me having to do it with muscle power. Today I have started to get a little pain from that area and so I think that the doctor beckons.

On the diet front I have been very silly this last week and find myself eating without any conscious thought. One evening whilst making my sandwiches for the next day I had a piece of bread that had not cut too well and I had made into a sandwich and was eating it. That sort of casual extra calorie intake is not conducive to weight loss and I am lucky that the scales weighed me in at 107.5 kg this morning – I had thought that 110 was probably deserved. I am back onto trying to refuse myself things as I think that a slide may be on the cards and I really do not want to start going backwards. I suppose that the good news about my diabetes test has had an effect and I know that my head is not in the right place for a concerted effort to cut down, but I am more conscious of feeling fat rather than feeling thin. I don’t want to feel fat, but do I want to feel thin enough to stop me eating? Only I can answer that one.

I have been making my own bread again, one or two loaves a week. I am using the old faithful Panasonic bread maker rather than doing it the hard way, but the results are good and hopefully the results are slightly more healthy than shop bought bread. The Berkshire Belle keeps hinting about making sourdough loaves, but my previous attempts have all failed. Even keeping a starter going seems beyond me and I would rather just buy one when the fancy takes me. Another starter kit has turned up though so I will have to take the hint and make an effort to try it soon.

Time to go and cook a Thai chicken curry for tea, so stay safe wherever you are and I will be back next week with a Monday Musing and the next lockdown log on Thursday.