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English Gents - Monday 13/12/10

The chocolate advent calendar may not contain the highest grade of confectionery but it is serving the purpose of reminding me Christmas is rapidly approaching. I honestly believe, without it, and if no-one reminded me, I'd completely forget. And have the most wonderful Christmas ever. Would be cheaper too.
More preparation of veggie beds, one of which was nearly completely reclaimed and was a real pig. Despite the burning back muscles and physical exertion I couldn't be happier. Many would find that disconcerting. I must be a very old 25 years of age. Still, gardening may be regarded as a pastime reserved for older, retired English gents, but I tell you what, I'll be bloody chuffed if I'm still capable of doing what I've just done in 40-50 years time!
Here's to all those misunderstood and deceptively fit, retired backyard gardeners out there!

I'm off to bed.

M Jones

Row 4 Done

Row 5

Row 6

Row 7

Row 8. Admired by Gwyn.

Shocking Muck- Sunday 12/12/10

Sunshine! Better wash the solar panels! Our mobiles have been suffering due to the past overcast days and the fact the car inverter doesn't seem to be doing the job.
Got one job done during my morning cigarette. The rear door of the static is scraping the frame. Probably due to the axle not yet being bricked up and supported. Can't raise it as my car bottle jack can't cope. The answer? Deflate the tire. Door fixed. Caravan level. Job done.
The rest of the day was spent preparing the vegetable beds. Emma came out to help for a bit before lunch and again as the light was fading. Have managed to get 4 of 8 dug, and one strip spread 3/4 of the way with muck. That 3/4 was a whole trailer load which shocked me.
Was aching and very tired but managed to spend three hours desperately trying to catch up on the blog. Same again tomorrow methinks.

M Jones

Item 1 Done - Saturday 11/12/10

Got item 1 done. Began by trying to sift and wash the stone from the mounds of soil currently deposited in the walled garden. But this was too slow and time consuming. Instead I smashed up some large lumps of slate used to make the track way. This too, was time consuming but was a damn sight quicker than washing off sodden, clay rich mud.
14:30 Emma had an hour appointment with the mid wife. After this we headed to Cardigan for fuel and sweeties, as well as a resupply in Tesco. Am very much looking forward to the day when this is no longer a necessity.

M Jones

I'll Get Cracking. Tomorrow - Friday 10/12/10

Temperatures have risen and the ground is thawing. Now our carefully measured lines on the building pad that were taut, are now slack and adrift.
Aside from odd jobs, the only thing to do is take Kit to the train station. He'll be away until Wednesday. Will miss him but I have plenty to keep me occupied.
1) Lay a pathway to the static. The thawed ground is now soaked and muddy.
2) Turn over the vegetable beds ready for planting around January.
3) Dig a 100m trench 6 inches deep in order to fence an enclosure for our rabbit farming venture.

Not a long list, but a tidy amount to do. Will get cracking tomorrow.

M Jones

Freezing My Barn Off - Thursday 09/12/10

The bitter taste of Tuesdays so called Committee Meeting has started to subside. There are still rumblings and grumblings amongst the residents, and I forecast further tremours and aftershocks following the next meeting, scheduled for this Tuesday.
Kit and I occupied our bodies and minds doing what little we can on a frozen but defrosting building pad. The lime sitting in two trugs is still frozen solid and unusable. This made brick laying impossible, so we had to satisfy ourselves by marking out the edges with fluorescent string and metal line pins. Even these put up a fight...
Am mindful the blog is being neglected as it is simply too uncomfortable to update whilst sitting in a freezing agricultural barn. So this evening I have been trying to do it in the luxurious warmth of the static caravan. Its taking a while....

M Jones

Warmer, Korma - Wednesday 08/12/10

Our cold, very large cool box has now been transformed into a comfortable abode. The wood burner is in!
Our 6.5kw JA014 Wood Burning Stove

This installation was a far cry from the last time when all I had was a pair of tin snips and a stanley knife. This time we had cordless drills, cordless jigsaws, set squares, crayons, self tapping screws, the lot. All thanks to Kit with the kit. Kits Kit. So this evening, it was absolutely brilliant to sit down with Kit and share a home made lamb korma by a roaring fire.
It was -6C that night and I was up at 04:00 getting the bad boy going again. Anyway. Thanks Mum and Dad for the £500! Has made us warm that's for sure

M Jones

Who Put The Pigs In Charge? - Tuesday 07/12/10

Jesus Christ! I literally have not stopped since Thursday. I have done so much, I can't clearly distinguish the days apart, much less relate events back in much detail. The best I can do is summarise what I do remember. Friday morning, I read a copy of the draft agenda for todays meeting. Was upset and dismayed to read two letters in it written by the business manager. These letters, in my opinion, were full of inaccuracies, misinformation and parts of a conversation I'd had with him taken out of context and misquoted. Discussing this swallowed up the entire morning, and before I knew it, it was time to take Ayres to the station for his foray to London.
Upon my return, Emma, myself and Kit made a resupply run to Crymych. When we were done, the day was gone.

Saturday - an extremely busy day. The temperatures rarely got above freezing which meant the nights rain had frozen turning the track way into an ice rink. It also made the ground look wet and muddy, yet completely solid. Really weird.
Being the 4th it was Emma's birthday. As my present to her, I moved our touring caravan up to its new spot beside the static, and did the bulk of everything else. Her birthday means all of our little family have now celebrated a birthday here.

Sunday - Clean up operation. After pissing about with electrics. Saturday night I rigged up a battery from the car in order for Fran to watch a movie. Unfortunately, because it was raining, I moved the inverter into the dry underneath the static caravan in the dark and inadvertently touched the casing against the positive terminal. POP! Lights out.

Kit was kind enough to cut some slabs that will be used as thermal mass and protection around the wood burner. After all that I spent an hour or so ensuring Ayres and Marianne's land was left exactly how we found it. Unfortunately my electrical nightmare was set to continue.
Just before the sun fully set, I managed to rig up the solar panels and create a far safer and more satisfactory electrical set up. Sadly the inverter we'd borrowed decided to pack in and display a fault light, as well as my charge regulator no longer displaying voltage and seemingly also go on strike. BOLLOCKS!

Monday - Road trip. Once again, it was off to Llanelli to replace the inverter and charge regulator for the second time. £20 of fuel gone. As Emma said, this life is supposed to be simpler and less reliant on money, but we can't afford it!
That said, I and most others can't afford conventional life. She's right, but wrong. Wrong, because the things we cannot afford such as diesel, insurance, mobile phone bill, and electrics are non essential for survival.
Luckily we got the items replaced without any problems and in fact came out better off. The next inverter up was on offer and cheaper than ours. So we were told we could swap for that and take other stuff to make up the difference. We were at a loss as to what else we needed. I wanted a remote control helicopter, but settled on a battery charger for Kit...

Emma needed to buy a bra, so she and Fran went touring the naughty sections of various shops whilst Kit and I checked out boots and clothes in T.K.Maxx.
The car died on the journey here most likely due to the cold and bio-diesel, so we put in some mineral diesel, but this made us late for Ayres who needed picking up after returning from his trip to London. Felt bad about that...

Tuesday -  Meeting. These meetings are obviously a black hole for productive time. Another 5 hour sitting.
This particular gathering was farcical. I couldn't help but draw analogies from George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' and '1984'. It is quite apparent that here at Lammas there is a power struggle now the Farmer has been evicted, and its definitely the pigs who think they run the show.
The 1984 side came from letters written by the business manager, or should I say the 'Ministry of Information'.  These were written after I talked to him, a discussion in which I wanted to be absolutely clear and frank, especially when the matter was agenda'd for this meeting. So imagine my horror and disgust when these words were twisted and taken out of context in order to support his delusions. His letters read like WWII propaganda pamphlets. The inaccuracies so wild, it could have been interpreted as a joke. The irony is it also came to his attention that someone had written a damning article about Lammas in a local publication, and his response condemned it as "...falsehoods presented as fact". Well, Well! Its easy to spot when someone is pulling the same tricks you are!

The meeting started with the usual crap and it was obvious everyone wanted to get to the issue at hand, unfortunately, when it did, the meeting broke down into what can only be described as a slanging match. The sort of pathetic behaviour you witness on a primary school playground, etiquette was forgotten. At the one point I spoke, and tried to clarify the truth as opposed to the published nonsense, I was interrupted by Ms Anonymous, who was either lying, distracted by her child or just not paying attention. This completely threw me off and I watched as the meeting degenerated. A business/committee meeting. My God. Lord Sugar would have been speechless. Gross professional misconduct is being kind.
At the previous meeting, those present were informed Lammas had been represented at the Welsh Assembly and the message was "The world is watching". That's worrying! I don't think anyone here would want the world watching right now!
Lammas would definitely not be praised and lauded in the future.
One resident related his past experience in a "dysfunctional housing co-op". It is quite apparent to me that "Sorry mate, you're in one!"
Sickened, saddened and disillusioned is how I and others are feeling. Lammas is described as trying to emulate a traditional English village... well its not the idyllic one they were aiming for. Its one infected by all the crap that people bring, set in a beautiful part of the Welsh countryside.

Fear and Loathing in Lammas

M Jones

Emergency Money And a Lifetime Guarantee - Thursday 02/12/10

Have been umming and ahhing about the best thing to do with regards to getting a wood burner in the static.
Our resources are severely limited, so limited we were nearly forced to take out the burner we have in this little caravan. That wouldn't really have worked either however, as its only 2.5kw and would be heating a poorly insulated space.
Finally I was forced to make the call to my folks to beg for emergency bail out money. This is something I honestly loath doing. God bless them, they came through and we have a burner and flue system ordered and hopefully arriving within the next 24 hours.

Ran out of wood last night. Thankfully another load came just in time. The previous lot lasted 3 months in a 2.5kw burner. It's therefore safe to assume this load will only last 1.5 months... Still £35 isn't bad compared to the heating bill of a house.

As a measure of how much wood we're burning and kindling I'm having to cut, my trusty old car boot axe broke :-(
Have kept the head and intend on repairing, however, in the meantime I've bought a Fiskars axe with a lifetime guarantee. That should last!

We've nearly run out of paraffin. So I've switched the battery over to the caravans 12 volt circuit. Am pretty upset I didn't do it sooner really. the lights are brilliant with the juiciest being just 15 watts! The two we use mainly I think are 5 watts each. So 10w/12 volts = 0.8333*amps. Our battery is 110 amp hour so at 80% efficiency 88 amp hours. 88ah/0.8333* = 105.6 hours of light! That has got to be cheaper than paraffin!

M Jones

A Special Delivery and Treats - Monday 29/11/10

Frances' 7th Birthday. She has been counting down for days and here it is. Today also happens to be the delivery day for our static caravan. As if the route wasn't narrow and challenging enough, there is a lot of ice on the roads that seems perfectly impervious to the efforts of the sun. The driver did a fantastic job and was therefore horribly crestfallen to see I had ticked the 'damaged in transit' box I had noticed a vent was ripped open, something I am certain I would have noted prior to purchasing, very minor, but no amount of downplaying could restore the mans hurt pride.
The rest of the day was spent manoeuvring and prat arsing about, but by 15:00 we were done. During this time Fran played with her presents, something I never felt I was allowed to do for long enough as a kid.
17:00 we went swimming, something Fran has wanted to do since she finished going to school. This was perfect as it meant showers all round. A pleasure normally, but a luxury and a treat now all the pipes on site are frozen!
The treats didn't end there as we finished the day with fish and chips. Upon our return home, we were all very ready for bed.

M Jones

A Violin. From A Relative, I Don't Have £400 Odd...

The Damage

Simple Things Please Simple Minds...

Olde Winter Time - Sunday 28/11/10

The nights are long, and the days are hard. This is winter, Olde English, or should I say, Olde Welsh style.
Last night was cold, temperatures dipping below -4C. Over ground pipes frozen. Roof vents sealed by the elements. If you're not checking your heat source through the night, you will invariably wake up to a frost bitten duvet at the very least.
Our wood consumption has rocketed to two overflowing buckets a day. This is opposed to one lasting two days. Our stockpile is diminished and in urgent need of replenishment.
Thursday the 25th saw our first flake of snow, with more forecast.
I've managed to contract a cold and a cough. This has meant me being relegated to light duties for fear of triggering bouts of rib crunching, ear popping, coughing fits.Throw in a strained back muscle, and existence gets miserable.
This modicum of discomfort has gone a little way to illustrating how challenging winter was to our ancestors. I recall reading books containing the phrase "might not survive the winter". Experiencing what I am, perhaps those words were not the melodramatic exaggeration I once thought them to be. Is it any wonder why, only in the last 100-200 years, the life expectancy of the average man has surpassed the age of 40? One of the reasons that, at present, I might reach 60 can be partly attributed to the fact I can pay some bloke £40 and VOILA, another few months of processed firewood appears...

In other news. Our little family has acquired a 6 week old feline addition aptly named Eira, welsh for snow. (Despite being a grey slush colour) This choice of label stems from the snowy, bollock chilling day we picked her up. Unsurprisingly her and I can now be found practically hugging the wood burner.

Took Fran to an adventure park called Folly Farm near Narbeth. She had a great time and I got a hot meal that contained a lot of meat. Need I say more.

The Log Store - If I were to store logs in there again, I'd put them on a pallet.

Camera Boredom

The Tasmanian Devil

M Jones

The Regrettable Strike Of Ms Anonymous - Wednesday 24/11/10

Once again, there is trouble in paradise. 10:00 Tuesday morning began another Lammas Committee meeting. All very routine until the last agenda item. "Long term volunteers : financial/legal/privacy and how do we get rid of those who do not want to leave?"
A valid agenda item as it is written. Pertaining to another volunteer who wouldn't cook for themselves (privacy issue for the leaseholder) was of foreign nationality (legal?) broke (financial) and now didn't want to leave. Unfortunately, thanks to someone who I shall kindly allow to remain anonymous, it morphed into a debate when said person randomly brought up that Kit intended to allow us to inhabit a static on his plot. In my opinion this was most regrettable. Obviously Ms Anonymous had motives...
First off, yet again, there were wild inaccuracies, very few facts and subsequently fearful speculation. The same recipe for disaster that occurred not a month prior.
Secondly, this arrangement does not exist yet. Far better would be to find out exactly what is being proposed, gain clarity and move forward. Most interesting was the fact that despite Ms Anonymous knowing the facts, us having confided in her on this matter, she failed to elaborate to the group. Preferring to slink back and allow the mess to erupt.
It was proposed that all volunteers sign a contract with an end date. A residents meeting was suggested in order to discuss the matter and ascertain what exactly should go on the next committee meeting agenda. Despite us being one of the areas of focus of this residents meeting, we were not invited to attend and provide our side of the matter.
The residents meeting, I believe to be a sensible thing. But we couldn't help coming away feeling stabbed in the back, unvalued and unappreciated. Just disposable items ready to be replaced.
That is probably due to not being in a position with any form of power. Therefore our reaction was to reach for that which is in our power. The ability to stay, or rather, leave.
As the dust has settled, so have emotions, but an uneasy air hangs like a mist in the valley. The committee asked that things be put on hold for two weeks. What they don't know is that we have already postponed the caravans delivery three times, Following the verdict, we delayed twice more and now the vendor is understandably wanting to know what to do. With this in mind we've agreed to delivery next Monday. This has already prompted the question from Ms Anonymous "Why have you not waited, at least until after the residents meeting?" This is unfair and unjustified in my opinion for the following reasons.
It is wrong for people to assume we have any power. Let alone, the power to engage in any activity that does not carry the consent of a plotholder.
It is unfair, in light of the many previous occasions we have already postponed and waited.
The other factor to consider is that we are not out to be defiant, undermine, or upset people. We have simply been presented with a wonderful and generous opportunity to better our current situation, our hearts and intentions are pure. I have faith, that all considered people will see truth and reason, and see us for the valuable asset we are. Kit seems to...

M Jones

Ash Whips, Presellis And Poo - Monday 22/11/10

Having trouble casting my mind back to know where to begin. Have been upto so much, last Thursday seems a lifetime ago, but i'll do my best.
Football - Thursday was the debut of a second team in the league, created due to the fact we had so many guys wanting to play. The first teams fixture was before us, and they put in an honourable performance losing 8-3. The second team, for which I played, faced the league champions of 6 consecutive years. We got slaughtered. A glorious massacre at 17-2. The consolation for me, was that I scored the first of our goals. That game was on another level, and left me forced to re-evaluate my fitness level. Will be sticking to Mondays until my stamina and aerobic fitness is on par.

Friday and Saturday I went with Ayres and Kit to pick up two trailer loads of very very well rotted manure. So well rotted that my first step in the pile saw my welly disappear and my leg saturated in poo juice. Nice.
Saturday afternoon, I sat in on a talk by a local fruit tree expert who really knew his stuff. His orchard has over 1000 species with no two trees the same. He is bringing back lost native British varieties by importing graftwood from Tasmania and other parts of the empire as was.
17:00 Kit and I set off for Kilgetty to pick up some ash whips and saplings following an advert i'd seen on freecycle. After a long chat with the chap we were invited back in the day where, within reason, we could take what we liked form his woodland. A very valuable contact!
Despite having already had a long and productive day, Ayres told Kit and I to dress warm and dry and report at 20:30 for a 'mission'.
We ended up hiking over the Presellis until gone 02:00. The night was clear and the moon full, making for a fantastic experience.
Sunday, yesterday, Emma Kit and I planted ash and in the evening had a brilliant homemade curry.
Boy did I sleep well!
Woke up this morning thinking of catching up on the blog, however my morning cigarette was interrupted by a delivery of 20 tons of stone. Heigh Ho Heigh Ho, its off to work I go...

M Jones

Very well rotted indeed.

A group photograph taken a while back. The photographer kindly sent each of us a copy.

I missed this shot. You can tell its lacking something :-)

Planting the ash whips. Should be ready to harvest in 5-10 years.