Ramblings and adventures

Fri 19th October 2018

The ranch is where it all begins and the rest follows. It’s simple. Grow some food. Take it home. Eat it. No chemicals. No plastic. No air miles. There’s no fire in the belly without food. Not that long ago, that’s what everyone did. During the war there was no choice and in the post-war austerity that followed, growing your own was a big saving.

Now it’s coming back. Since I started, food has a least doubled in price and this year, I’ve probably doubled my output so it’s suddenly become a cost effective enterprise. Not only that, there’s a new wave of the well-informed who are unsubscribing from the crap in favour of sourcing clean food – this also means giving up all kinds of other processed food and there’s an exponential growth in veggiedom.

Summer veg

During the long heady searingly hot summer, I had a moment of alarm. Trees were dying and I ran out of water. This global warming gimmick is for real. I had to carry water up for a few weeks. It was a wake-up call and I’ve since doubled my water storing capacity including starting a new well (using ubiquitously useful bottles for the liner) and buying a bowser (I didn’t know what a bowser was until I bought one). As natural disasters continue to increase, I think the North of England and Lancashire in particular, is one of the best places to be.

Despite the drought I’ve had the best season so far and I’ve made inroads into getting the excess out into the community via the local café – during high season, we had so much stuff that we were taking it to food banks. We’ll be more organised next year.


Observing the natural ecosystem then harnessing and adding subtle modifications means big labour savings – even better when you add a bit of technology – the solar panel powers the 12v pump that pumps water out of the well into an irrigation system and so on. I call it common sense but  it comes under the banner of permaculture.

Gherkins and runner beans have done incredibly well. Linda and I walked across to Hollin Hill and cut a load of ash poles and built an A-frame for the beans . It ended up being about eight feet tall. As with everything I grow, the beans were planted into big trays until they were pretty big and strong. The entire tray is then just plonked on top of the bed and earthed up round the edge. No digging or root disturbance. I put a soak hose down the middle, fed from the bowser and used comfrey leaves to feed them from time to time. At first, I thought I’d overdone it by planting them too closely but not so – they’ve done incredibly well all summer. I had to use a ladder to pick the top ones. We’ll have jars and jars of dried runner bean seeds which make a great winter food source.

Produce for the cafe
Runner beans

I gave up on the potatoes – I didn’t have enough water. I thought I’d end up with a scrawny crop but again, more than ever before. The no-dig woodchip manure augmented with hedge clippings is a great moisture retainer. I made a new mesh store in the barn to stop rats getting at them. They’re in straw and there’s at least 6 months worth.

Other successes include goji berries and figs. We bought an apple press and made apple juice. The ranch is a place of exquisite peace – outdoors and exercise. Deffo good for the soul.

Fresh figs
Rock & Roll

During the addictive hot weather, I could easily have spent all my time up there and I had little interest in doing anything else, but Rock & Roll has its own momentum and I’ve still been out and about doing gigs. I did a gig at the café and it went pretty well, so now we’re doing monthly music nights – original live music and 7” singles – a simple formula that’s working well. I gave up on book promotion over the summer but now I’m back on it. The book uses the ranch’s annual cycle as a framework for stories about Rock & Roll, going to medical school etc. I think it’s a decent piece of work and maybe it’s a subtle manifesto for the quiet revolution – a few people have said, relax, you’ve done it, but to me the project isn’t finished until I’ve sold the first edition.

Sage, Gaz, Higgy
Music night at 160 cafe

Sam and I finally finished our 5w valve amp and it sounds awesome. It completes our 3 models and once the website is done, Sam is going into business building them. Based on several decades experience of using guitar amps, we’ve designed three corkers – as tough and robust as can be – 30w, 20w and 5w. The 30 watter is in the Vox AC30 bracket and can be used as a bass amp too. We’ve used the 20 watter for every gig, rehearsal and recording session for the last few years. It can keep up with the loudest drummer – it’s the ultimate all-round Rock & Roll amp. They all sound amazing.

5 watt valve amp

Yesterday Boff and I went into Mid Pennine Arts to talk about our memories of when punk started in Burnley and its subsequent effects. We both had slightly different memories of the same events. Talking about it in that way put it into a new perspective and made me realise what a massive effect the whole movement had – we’re both still subscribing to that DIY ethic and travelling the non-conformist road.

Notsensibles - Welfare State, Burnley ~ 1979
Boff & Pepe - Railway Workers ~ 1979
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