Tuesday, 22 July 2014

DIY Marathon

After a marathon decorating and garden re-vamping spree lasting somewhere close to ten weeks we’re finished until at least the autumn, when we can do some planting in the front garden.

We’ve broken the back of the front garden that was literally overrun with Ground Elder http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegopodium_podagraria. A combination of spade work, hand fork, border fork and the use of fingers to break open individuals clumps finally saw the root mass reduced to a manageable area under a Cotoneaster hedge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotoneaster_horizontalis,). We reckon on we’ve pulled up and dug out 20kilos dry weight of roots and rhizomes from the ground elder. The remains under the Cotoneaster I hand treated with Roundup Gel, coating all the remaining growing Ground Elder shoots and leaves (tip, to take care of ground elder you need growing leaves not mature leaves, I ripped all the growth off the Elder a week or two prior to using the weed killer, so I was applying it to active fresh new growth).

We've also dug in a cubic yard of compost and covered the entire area with 800ltrs of bark to suppress the weeds, keep the soil moist and to allow the sparse population of worms to proliferate and do their work (it also puts cats of of using the area as a toilet). A little rain will help consolidate the broken soil and the worms will help with the structure now they have some food. As soils go it is pretty good, just compressed and lacking organic material, but that's the result of a polythene membrane covered in three or four tonnes of rough pebbles. If it were'nt for the Elder you would have said the garden had been in storage waiting for a new caretaker.

During my investigations into how to deal with this weed I discovered that you can eat it  and so we have kept a piece in a pot raised well off the ground out back so we can have some for culinary purposes useful link to a blog below, but there are some useful videos on Youtube as well. The upshot is: use young leave s the same as you would spinach. http://scottishforestgarden.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/growing-and-eating-ground-elder/.

As things stand we now have, the lounge, kitchen, conservatory and front bedroom painted completely. The spare room we are leaving for now, as we are considering having a wood burning stove installed, and if we do then the flue will pass through one corner of this room and will have to be boxed in, necessitating additional skirting and what have you to blend it all in ... so we wait. The room is fine, just not in colours we would choose. The lounge ceiling would just require a lick of paint to match it in so we can be done in there and not worry so much about alterations when the flue goes up.

Out back we have cleared and re-ordered the shed, the fence has been painted a lime green, we’ve planted on one of the trees my mum fostered while we were away, and the others are acclimatising to their new environments and orientation, all are showing signs of stress, but with water and TLC they should be bounce back next spring.

We’re in an odd place right now. Amanda is at work all day, I’m home doing jobs, going shopping and doing the cooking and cleaning (I may have to take up doing the ironing ... this is a concern, I hate ironing). Generally speaking though; looking after home is not a big issue, I spent better than ten years living by myself after I finished things with she who cannot be named. The trick is not to get too caught up in faffing with the small, and to create a regular routine, like as if you are going to work. I have to sit down and work out my week and form some sort of rota and print it off. This sounds pretty anal but it’s easy to get lost in minutiae.

I want a part-time job, but they are not as easy to find as you’d imagine. We’ve actually come home to an area where employment is not increasing as fast as the rest of the country. And I seem to be being rejected because I’m over qualified for the lower skill jobs I’ve been looking at, and the jobs within my main skill-set are always full-time. This is frustrating because I have my own ambitions to deal with that don’t involve pursuing a career to someone else’s agenda. You just can’t say that on your CV or covering letter. Honesty is the last thing required when looking for a job regardless of what you’re told ... it’s all buzzword bingo and catch phrases, verbal smoke and mirrors. I think that’s one of the reasons I dislike Linkedin even though I’m a member, it’s your `Workface’ via Work Social media, and proves that work you and you are two entirely separate people ... unless you find a job you love, in which case (according to all sources) you’ll never work again.

However now the back breaking work is done and we can pick pets projects for ourselves around the home and garden I can sit down and work out my week and try very hard not to let it run into the weekends; which has been happening a lot of late to the point that unless we’ve gone away to friends or on a visit, we’ve been doing seven days a week non-stop graft and then being too shattered to have any fun.

That’s us for now. Until we do something exciting, blogs as per previous update will be sparse. I’ve read few blogs that have a life cycle tied to an activity. I may just leave this one floating and start another, we’ll see.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Electronic life

I was sitting here yesterday trying to organise my thoughts, as you do. I’ve cracked through decorating the downstairs almost completely, I have a cupboard to purchase and assemble for the washing machine, and a dishwasher to fit where the washing machine is now (when we’ve bought the dishwasher that is). Then I just need to give the small utility room a lick of paint to finish, and then it’s upstairs full-time to decorate. In between times I’ve been clearing the front lawn of its gravel layer, membrane and the Ground Elder Aegopodium podagraria that has invaded the area in the six years we haven’t lived here. It is truly back breaking work; hundreds of rhizomes, thousands of rooting strands and all must go, or we’ll have to use Glyphosate, and I’m not a lover of chemical weeding.


Besides all this physical labour I’ve been organising my thoughts for the book projects I’ve set myself to do (there’s nothing like giving yourself a headache is there). I have the bones of two novels I’ve been titting around with since 2011 (one sits at around 70000 words, but being anally retentive in the extreme I need to do some geographical research because I don’t like to be inaccurate), No 2 is easier in that respect, it’s all made up stuff ... within reason. I would also like to re-jig the blog to book form (this requires a lot of re-reading and then groaning at what a plonka I feel whenever I read my own scribblings). It then requires re-formatting with hindsight.

Anyway what’s all that got to do with the title? Everything and nothing I shall elaborate:

I was sitting at the desk area in the kitchen yesterday looking at my basic setup. Laptop, Kindle, Tablet, Phone, Electronic cigarette (yes it’s included) and a paper notebook. I looked and thought that looks excessive, then I thought about my days on trade floors fixing irate traders lives as the one underdesk PC was down was potentially costing them millions in lost revenues. In the old days you could find half a dozen PC’s under one desk, dual video cables, KVM switches and a rats nest of cables, with the ever present risk of downing an entire area with one badly handled eight way power gang (things are easier on trade floors now, with the advent of virtual environments, mirrored server blades and less under desk PC sprawl).

But: how do I use all these electronic gadgets and why given that a while back I was trying to reduce my electronic sprawl do I need all the gadgets?

The answer is specific functions or environments created within each device. This beast that I type on (having completely dismantled it and re-seated all its cables and internals to cure a screen flicker) is the work horse of typing. In an ideal that’s all I want it to do in terms of getting me from A to B. In an ideal world I don’t want it interacting with the WWW for twaddle in the main profile, because despite good security and virus software `out there, there be sharks’. In addition to its typing duties, it’s also the nexus through which all other devices physically connect and exchange information (I say information, not data because data is something that needs to be sorted into information and what comes from the various other devices is properly sorted out information, I don’t do data very few of us do). So everything that comes in via the tablet, cameras phones etc gets channelled to the backup terabyte drive, DVD RW’s, and choice cuts go to USB Data fobs. Multiple backups may seem like paranoia, but imagine losing your home to a fire or flood or virus (the number of folks I’ve had to look at and shake my head at over the years tells me you can’t be too careful).

So these devices have found specific roles (Laptop,  Kindle, Tablet, Phone and a paper notebook) and it was only after I backtracked that I realised what I’d done and how reliant we are on these gadgets and how I’ve created an office that sits in a space eighteen by twenty four inches.

I put the Oxford dictionary and thesaurus on the Kindle, when I type and I’m not sure of a word or its specific meaning I go to the Kindle, and of course I can find synonyms that increase accuracy of definition and variety of word use. I like Dictionary.com but I don’t like slow load speeds, pop ups, cookie warnings and all that crap that slows performance. Kindle Paperwhite also has direct connect to Wikipedia over wireless, this means I can read and research in book form rather than using the laptop thus diverting its resources, or constantly ALT-TABing between windows (anyone reading the blog will see I go to Wikipedia a lot).

Kindle Tiny URL http://tinyurl.com/kx8x8ht

I use the tablet for surfing, and full colour research and video (because it has High Definition) again this reduces latency, resource use and bandwidth, temp files and data clutter that Norton has to screen and clear. And as firewalls go clearly it’s physically separate from the laptop unless I connect it manually. The other great use of the Tablet is exploring roads and the world in general using Google Earth or Maps, Street View etc.

The phone does what the phone does, communications: Twitter and SMS mostly. It’s also a calculator, diary and Dictaphone (the tablet can do these things but isn’t nearly as portable).

Finally the electronic cigarette means I no longer have to wander off and smoke (which I hated). I can now sit back read and review and or think without necessarily leaving he desk, while simultaneously not killing myself slowly or stinking up the house (having to walk away from your work space, clear your head or review while not being able to refer directly to what you’re doing is not always ideal).


So that’s that electronic life. I have all the tools, I just need now to stop worrying about not being at work and earning money and relying on Amanda to provide the bread and butter while I tit around being creative. And of all the obstacles to progress this is the biggy, I’ve spent two hours writing this thousand or so words, and not a penny earned.
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