A long gnawing spell of freezing weather, with temperatures as low as minus eight is sandwiched between endless soggy rain.
Humidity is high and storage is difficult on the ranch – even in the mesh store in the barn. I had a splendid crop of Sturon onions from sets, but they’re not keeping well and several have gone mouldy. I’ve rescued the remaining bits into splendid onion soup. Frying them in butter is the key.
A big chunk of my life is taken up with the husbandry of shifting around organic material, whether it be firewood or horseshit or drying beans. Our boiler has packed in, so we’re without heating. The stove is the heart of the house and the routine of kindling, logs and coal is endless. I’ve honed it to a fine art and have managed to make it drastically more efficient. We’ve also fitted the first stove at the eco house, but alas there’s a problem with the liner and it’s not easy for roofers in this weather.
It’s all worth it. I’m saving dosh, moving about and reducing subscriptions to the usury of the vile utilities companies who suck out the lives of ordinary decent people whilst amassing vast profits. So much so, that I decided at the beginning to sever all contact with gas and electricity companies at the eco house. Easier said than done. It took a long time to get British Gas to cap their meter. E-On however are much worse. Despite telling them categorically that I didn’t want their service, they opened an account in my name and started sending me bills. One of the first things that we did was remove their shitty smart meter. They finally closed the account in my name, but continue sending bills to ‘The Occupier’. Cunts. There is no occupier fucktards. I’m persevering.
Providing enough electricity for a little house in an urban area is a big challenge and I’m researching it endlessly. Solar panels and a back-up generator to charge the batteries is the plan. In principle, it’s straightforward but there’s a lot of nuance. 24 or 48 volts for the lights? Difficult choice. In the short term, I have four 12 volt 100 a/h batteries. I charge 2 at a time at home then run an inverter at the house to provide power for tools.
As for heat, I’ll have a small gas hot-water boiler and a gas cooker, all run off the big gas bottles that I collected before the price doubled. The heart of the house will be a solid fuel range that runs the hot water and heating. I’ve spent a long time researching the plumbing. We’re building a big wood store for the garden.
Ranch work has been limited. The main massive job of pruning the hedge alas hasn’t even started. It’s rare that the ground is too frozen to dig. Although I’m no dig, I’m way behind with the weeding. A typical day up there is weeding a patch, then mulching it with a layer of compost, topped with a layer of fresh manure. ‘Fresh manure!’ come the inevitable indignant cries. Everyone knows that manure has to be composted before putting it on the ground. Nevertheless, I’ve been doing it for years and it works for no dig. The soil underneath, where plant roots go is very well rotted. I sprinkle volcanic ash on the top, which is full of micro-nutrients.
I’ve got all the autumn garlic and rye planted – all my own bulbs and seeds. I net them all to keep the pesky crows off. I learned recently that blackbirds pull garlic up, mistaking the emerging tips for worms.
Neil and Freddy visited from France. We had a quick look at the ranch in all its crystal frostiness, then went to a nice Pendle pub. I was reminded again of the simple concept of ‘my time for your time’. Help me out on the farm and you’ll get first dibs at the fresh organic produce straight from the ground. The idea has been around since the beginning of time. Freddy is a member of an AMAP – Associations pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne, Association for Maintaining Small Scale Family Farming, which is a similar idea except it involves paying a subscription too. They all get together for the big harvests, then have a shindig afterwards. Everyone brings food and drink to share.
I think most folk have hibernatory feelings at this time of year in this weather. I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labours. Plants are amazing. If anyone ever offers me homemade wine, I cringe inwardly, because I expect it to be shit, never coming close to a decent mis en bouteille au chateau. I don’t know what I did right this time, compared to last year’s disaster, but the blackberry wine was exquisite. Rich and heady with a deep burgundy colour. I did boil the fruit and sugar together to kill off yeasts and bacteria, before adding wine yeast. Maybe that was it? I made it very simply without sulphites – I’m convinced there was something magical about it due to being from local fruit. The gooseberry is just as good. I have fallen asleep in the chair on more than one occasion.
I made a salve using dried calendula, St John’s wort, plantain, yarrow, cold-pressed hemp seed oil, beeswax and coconut oil. It’s showing results on a friend’s patch of psoriasis.
It’s been a funny old 3 years. I’m glad that I didn’t trust a scrap of the bullshit coming from the controllers’ mouthpieces. I’m never one to play the ‘I told you so’ card. I was right, that’s all. I don’t think that I’m the only one who has learned to trust my gut feeling and intuition more. People who I thought were honest and I trusted, turned out not to be, and life-long friendships have ended for ever, whilst others have got stronger. That’s life. I was lucky to have the ranch as a haven. I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. Their stupid f’ing lockdowns had little effect on me. I didn’t mind wearing a mask at work. I’m socially anxious at the best of times, so it was something to hide behind.
Genocide is genocide wherever it occurs. Inevitably the warring sides are just the end point of a much darker agenda peddled by puppeteers at the top of the pyramid. The list is endless since the beginning of time. The concept that one race is so hated by another, that their extermination is considered acceptable is beyond horror.
The current one has touched me more than any other. Maybe because our slime ball government has endorsed it and refuses to support a humanitarian ceasefire. I’ve said many times that I never take at face value any information that only comes from screens – there’s just so much misinformation about. AI has made it much worse. I don’t pretend to understand the relationship between the ancient Jewish religion and the much later addition of Zionism. I just know that there are some frightening things directed from the dark shadows of the upper pyramid.
A friend’s dad died. ‘It’s a grief reaction’. I kept saying, when he came round the day after. I didn’t know his dad that well – he came to a few of our gigs. I think funerals are as much about supporting those left behind as saying goodbye. I was a bit late, and as soon as I got in, I was hit by an Achilles heel surge of grief, obviously from my own past. It’s a good job boys don’t cry innit. No soft cunts allowed round here. It was even worse when he saw me as we all filed out. ‘Thanks for coming’.
I suggested that we record The Promise before he went back up north. I already knew it was apt – ‘Dads need their lads, and lads need their lads’. He echoed it by saying that he’d promised his dad that he would do right by him, and he did.
Recording and filming live is difficult – especially with just 2 mics, but I like the immediacy of it. I have to set up all the recording gear, then switch on the recorder and 2 cameras for every take. It’s easier than playing gigs and despite not liking my appearance or the sound of my voice, it’s out there.
Rock & Roll:
Notsensibles is one of the best things on my CV. We were (and still are) a quirky cheeky irreverent post-punk band with a great sense of schoolboyish fun. Gary (bass player) and I have been playing together for a good few years now, doing mainly my original material, but always with Notsensibles songs thrown in.
We’ve got a couple of gigs coming up next year – Friday 9th of Feb upstairs at The Golden Lion in Todmorden and Saturday 16th March at The Braithwaite Institute, just outside Keswick. We’ve enlisted my lads to make up the rest of the band to do a full-on Notsensibles set. It’s going to be good. We’re rehearsing 15 songs. Charles will be the perfect front man, tall and stick thin, replete with pencil tache and mega-mullet. I’ll be putting tickets for Todmorden on sale soon. Friends and family are everything.