The Ranch:

12 days of snow and ice, with temperatures as low as minus 8.

Then a thaw and heavy rain.

Then more ice – frozen rain in sheets on all the paths, so I can’t use the barrow.

Muck midden has 3″ of water in the bottom – muck ferments with nauseating pong.

The door both swollen and frozen, so I have to kick it hard several times to get it open. Smearing the edges with engine oil hasn’t made any difference.

Pervasive damp and windows leaking in the ‘dry bit’ at the back of the lean-to, so all fusty and parts of wooden lining going mouldy.

Tractor battery flat again and solar system flat too, so can’t charge it. Can’t get tractor off anyway, because path in field deep mud.

Frost has lifted track at the top, followed by heavy rain – now mush and impassable by vehicle – needs a few tons of hardcore, but soggy stuff has to be dug out first and can only be done when dry.

Open-pollinated and organic seeds are selling out fast as I predicted. Websites are only open briefly due to unprecedented demand.

A winter of discontent – as above, so below.

It doesn’t matter though – the point is that the ranch is somewhere to go away from the incessant computer screens, doom-scrolling and a never-ending litany of misery.

It’s somewhere to be, where nature’s truth, however raw and brutal, cleans the head for a while + the exercise is much needed.

I can see the bigger picture. The days WILL get longer. The Spring WILL come. The demand for excess produce from aspiring self-sufficientists WILL be greater than ever.


Winter harvest


On Wednesday, I harvested beetroot, brassicas (cabbage, Kale and broccoli), salad leaves and watercress. Along with the spuds, onions, rye and poppy seeds in storage, and my improving bread-baking, it’s soups galore. I won’t mention the fart-all-night factor.

January is for planning. There’s no such thing as a quiet month in farmleting.

I’m a sucker for red notebooks. I’m always jotting things down. The ranch one has faded to a pale pink.

I’m borrowing from meetings at work, and writing down ACTIONs to try and avoid the fizzle-out that seems to happen at the end of every season.

Each item planted now has its own page. Not only do I write the name of the variety, the location and the time planted. I also write how well it did: the yield; the taste; how it stores and so on. In addition, I’ll be giving out plants to people I know with growing space and I’ll be giving them a little questionnaire to fill in.

Some of the most massive multi-national firms such as Monsanto (purveyors of Genetically Modified Organism seeds and  the controversial herbicide Roundup since 1973, until they sold it to Beyer in 2018, exercise complete control over large swathes of world food production.

They do it by patenting their seeds and forcing farmers to sign mercilessly binding contracts, effectively preventing them from saving their own seeds. Anyone who stands up to them is hauled through the courts – read all about them here.

That’s why growing on a small scale, using seed that can be saved year after year, really is a revolutionary act – it’s a sidestep away from gargantuan multi-national companies who have unimaginable influence over ordinary people’s lives.

Barn stabel


Down the rabbit hole …


and it’s weirder and trippier than ever ever before.

Like in a Cold War Steve picture.

Shagger shitface and the shitefaced shagger are asleep in their wheel barrows in the corner.

Porky and Slobber are bickering.

‘I hope you haven’t been nicking my Tignan’ to trade in for your f-ing nose-powder.’ Says Porky.

‘Have I fuck.’ ‘Chill ya boots.’ Says slobber (whilst secretly thinking ‘You’ll never play the Dane you fat cunt.’)

‘Oh look. Here comes Handoncocky.’ says Porky.

‘Hey cocky-wocky, how many pezzies have you managed to wipe out this week?’

‘Well we’re easily up to 1G+ a day, that’s not to mention those dying at home so that prob doubles up the numbers.’

‘F’ing good work cock-wock. And we’ve managed to completely fuck their livelihoods and remove all protection from Europe – f’ing bingo.’

‘Cheers Pfeffer.’ Says Cock-wock.

Beano Slime-smugcunt is guffawing on the green bench. He’s laughing at the thicko pezzies. ‘Arf, arf they’re snivelling again – at least the fish are happy now they’re British again.’ He slopes off to write his Eugenics Weekly column.


Cold War Steve image - copyright Cold War Steve.


Stumpy is waddling about in her high heels, complaining about Johnny Foreigner and leafing through her guillotine catalogue.

Willy Wanker hoves in.

‘Hey Pfeffer – we’ve managed to fuck over the kids! As well as fucking their education we’ve managed to fob them off with a fiver’s worth of shit food and keep the other 25 quid for ourselves!’

‘Top notch Wassock.’ Says Porky.

Nads Vaccine appears round the corner.

‘Hey Nads, this vaccine prog is starting to look a bit squeaky clean – how about creaming some proffy off for the boys? Everyone else is making mills from the pezzies by giving the contracts to our mates.’

‘Well I kinda already did.’ says Nads.

‘I got the wife and boys to set up a vaccine company – we even called it Rabbit Warren for a laugh.’

‘Top notch, top notch.’ Guffaws Porky.

A snotty junior junior minister ambles up to Porky, looking like a terrified schoolboy in front of the Head Master

‘Er, won’t the pezzies start getting frisky if we keep wiping them out, destroying their livelihoods and taking away everything that gives them joy.’

‘Stupid boy.’ Bellows Porker, swatting the unfortunate junior with a rolled-up copy of the Telegraph.

‘Of course they f’ing won’t – they’re too busy moaning on Twitter and Facebook. Besides, we own the media so we can tell them whatever the fuck we want and they’ll believe us. That new BBC chap has given us 400 gee gees for a start.’

The foolish boy asks ‘What about the table ready deal?’

Porker loses his shit and fires off an Eton right-hooker. Foolish boy.



Meanwhile, real life looks even weirder than the rabbit hole. The govt’s corruption, cronyism  and incompetence continues to sky-rocket exponentially. Any other race except the nouveau-banal English would have revolted by now. Covid is the perfect excuse, giving a carte-blanche road-map to dictatorship.

Now that fart has fallen, the swarms of Brexiteers and toffs lining up to give him a rusty trombone* have all disappeared into the woodwork.

There’s a glimmer of hope, as pockets of alternative press start to emerge. There’s  Double Down News and I’ve subscribed to the Byline Times who are doing a splendid job of breaking the stories of billionaire’s corruption. Someone clever (I can’t remember who) said something about building an alternative society, so that the old one becomes obsolete. In my supreme naïveté, I just can’t understand why a bunch of like-minded folk don’t form a Scandinavian-style reasonable alternative, based on the common ground of decent people.

The new variant is very real and is sweeping North like wildfire. Even now, there are morons denying that it’s happening, spreading bollocks on social media (I came across some useful guidance below). I’m still incredulous that there are people who think that nurses and doctors are lying about what’s happening out there. They’re not. They’re honest decent people, who have chosen to care for others – above all be kind innit.

Hospital Trusts (including ours) are doing everything in their power to increase capacity in anticipation of an apocalyptic 8 weeks ahead. It’s effectively a nationwide major incident. I got a bit scared and despondent again. And sad. Not allowing families to be with their dying relatives is one of the cruellest societal failings I’ve ever come across. This was going on when the pubs were still open. Imagine that.

There’s a lot of work going into wellbeing, as Trusts like ours realise the toll that working in the pandemic can take on some staff – call it what you will – it’s very real. Erin has sorted a ‘wobble room’. She and TG were looking at colour charts for the decor. There’s a comedy gold moment. ‘You can’t choose beige’ I quip.

I am mercilessly cynical of any wellbeing efforts that involve ticking boxes on a screen. I think the only thing that really helps is face to face conversation with someone that you trust. I also realise that if I’m critical of someone’s efforts then I should come up with an alternative and the notion of ‘wellbeing slots’ on the ranch springs into my head – all perfectly legal – I’ve already done it a few times with friends. Just a walk through the park then a brew on the ranch – like the time that Hornshaw came with baby Wilf and he squished the perfect little tiny banana loaves that she’d made through his perfect little fingers. 

On the way down the track, half carrying the all-terrain buggy, we bumped into Ben’s mum taking Ben’s (remaining) lurcher for a walk. We talked about the harrowing pain of the death of one’s lurcher. I won’t repeat it again, it’s too painful.

When she arrived, her car wasn’t making any noise and I thought she’d stalled it. It’s a black one.

‘Have you stalled it?’

‘No – it’s electric.’


Lisa Travers suggests that a big do on the ranch could be a good wellbeing thing to look forward too – too right. It’s called Sagefest 2 and the jams will so be so kicked out.

*Google it


A social media guide flowchart for hospital commenting


Rock & Roll:

is sweet.

During the first lockdown, I went into a mental lockdown too and lost my muse.

This time is different. Listening to Beatles deconstructed tracks has inspired me – the fact that some of them are so rough and ready (but the vocals are always impeccable) give me hope for my simple 8-track set-up.

I changed the strings on my guitar and was struck by what an utterly beautiful thing it is.

I managed to record my Bach piece and I banged down Great Dream From Heaven in a single take.

Sam and I have started working on one of his songs and it’s a sheer delight to play the double bass again and get into a simple recording routine.

Absorption in music is immensely enjoyable and I feel grateful to be able to do it.

I nearly evicted M C Saga – it all seems a bit too flippant given the awfulness of the current situation. The idea of snow deep enough to go over the top of his silver platforms however was just too irresistible.

My Australian friends Paula and Mike are still kindly including me in their Sonny Michael’s Shows – here’s the last one.

Jeez Louise papa cheese. There’s hope for the short fat bald loser. The mirror ball as metaphor. Business as usual at Hartley House.

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