Ranch:

For newer readers, the ranch is a scruffy sprawling affair. One and a half acres, tucked away off the beaten track. It’s in one of those myriad towns and villages in the north-west of England beginning with B: Baxenden; Britannia; Billington; Bacup; Bolton; Bury; Blackburn.

It’s on a rugged clay hillside and commands the most spectacular view over the town and the three surrounding named hills, one of them quite famous.

Here, I’ve been pseudo-farming for numerous years. It’s simple really. Grow as much food as poss as close to home as poss using the least effort poss. Not using chemicals is a no-brainer. Being efficient in a factory is different to being efficient outdoors. In the latter, you have to fit in with nature. There’s no choice. Some people call it permaculture. I just call it common sense gardening.

I served an old-fashioned engineering apprenticeship which taught me how to make and mend just about anything. I’m good at the infrastructure, but up until recently I’ve been a rubbish gardener. I’ve sussed out all that off grid stuff. Solar, wind, water storage. I think solar is actual magic. Free electricity out of the sky.

It’s a bit much for me to keep on top of on my own and sometimes it gets me down. I do get regular help from Bill and a few other folk. Other times, I think yes, yes, yes. I bought land when other people bought plane tickets, skis and golf clubs. It’s a rain and shine job. Day in day out. It’s been more rain than shine lately.

View from greenhouse

 

I’ve often thought ffs why didn’t I just save up and buy a house with some land? It was never that simple though. We had to be close to Louise’s mum and there were other family considerations. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way. A pseudo-farmlet ten minutes walk from home and twenty minutes from the town centre? Kif.

There’s a lot of romantic illusion about leaving it all behind and moving to the countryside. Bollocks to that. I’d be bored. I like my town. I like being able to see the football ground and hear the roars and cheers on a match day from the top floor of the greenhouse (yes – smartarse built a two-storey greenhouse).

First I had my tenth acre allotment for years, then I bought the field next door. The allotment is well-cultivated with a very useful big lean-to space with a stove and gas cooker.

The field is bordered by an impressive double hedge, creating a leafy lane. I never realised that the hedge would become so massive, so quickly when I planted it. There’s a little orchard in the far bottom corner; a big ramshackle stable/barn in the middle; the greenhouse at the top; a new greenhouse in waiting above the barn, then the cultivated bit with five big downward sloping beds.

Success in this type of farming is proportional to the amount of organic material that you put back into the soil. I have an endless supply of horse muck and my own hay and hedge clippings. Processing it all though takes a vast amount of physical labour. I don’t mind. It’s better than basking in a mist of sweat, skin flakes and aluminium compounds at the gym. I’m no dig, so I just plonk an inch layer of compost on the beds every year.

Roses

 

Dinosaurs. Ice-ages. Precarious rocks spinning on less than perfect axes in space. Two inextricably-connected gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide supporting all life on our planet. The only certainty is that climate change is inevitable. How much can humans affect it? Well they can certainly fuck large swathes of the planet, with inevitable knock-on effects elsewhere. Magical carbon dioxide is pumped into commercial greenhouses to improve plant growth. We’d be extinct without it. Has the weather changed recently on the ranch?

Yes it has changed. I dug my two wells during several long periods of basking endless sunshine and blue skies. We had such a period during Covid and the lock-downs. Since, I haven’t seen two consecutive days of sunshine. We’re close enough to see planes on flight-paths from Manchester; Liverpool; Newcastle and Leeds. There are definitely a lot more than there used to be. Their contrails are typically visible as two parallel white streaks behind them, which usually end abruptly.

What I’m observing now on days that start off clear and sunny, are myriad criss-crossing contrails which spread out to form a uniform hazy mist with the sun barely visible as a pastel orb. I gave up speculating on internet-only information long ago. I’m just reporting what I see.

Lean-to

 

Despite a feeling of always being behind, I’ve been more organised than ever this year. In succession, I’ve planted tray upon tray of peas, beans, brassicas, tomatoes, chillies, herbs and even a few flowers.

Now, they’re all planted out, but alas, all is not well. In mid-May, they were all looking lush and healthy. I grow plants big and strong in trays. They’re very well hardened-off before going out and I plant them in large solid blocks to have maximum resistance to legion mollusc attacks. The methods you see used on rustic Kent and Somerset perfect gardens, simply wouldn’t work up here.

Instead of the usual exponential splurge of growth of May and June, there’s been almost nothing and the more tender plants like beans and courgettes are yellowing and look like they’re dying. I know exactly why. It’s the temperature. I’ve never known a June this cold. There have been frosts in parts of the UK. Instead of warming up, the soil has cooled down and the plants really don’t like it.

Not everything is struggling. The fruit trees, compared to last year seem to have plenty of fruit developing and the fruit bushes are packed. The patch of rye looks very healthy and peas and broad beans are doing OK.

Peas

 

Of late, I’ve taken to going up there early and having my morning cup of coffee. I have a chair and a little table in front of the greenhouse doors, which frame that spectacular view. The quiet hum of the town below and the bird orchestra even drowns out my tinnitus and there is no peace more exquisite.

There are people like me all over who see that this kind of lifestyle is the best. It’s not about leaving the rat-race behind. It’s about incorporating the food-growing habit, and all that goes with it. That includes having the foresight and clarity to see through what is going on further afield. There are various currencies and time is the universal one. Precious and limited. Hence the pound note of the universe is ‘your time for my time’. I keep trying to get more people involved but it doesn’t really work. I’ll share my space and experience in exchange for a bit of help and a some of the produce. I’ve even tried getting a gardening group going but hardly anyone came. I haven’t given up on it. The time will come.

There’s a hint of a promise of warmer weather in the air. The lanes and orchard are mowed with the MF35 and the topper. All the beds are fully weeded. The greenhouse is tidy and the tomatoes, cucumbers, chillis and peppers are coming along apace.

Heaven truly is in the ordinary.

Morning coffee

 

Elsewhere:

I stepped off the conveyor belt when I saw what was happening. I was good at what I did and I helped people. Virtuous path innit? I still feel guilty for leaving at times and I often think that I’d go back if someone asked me, but no-one did, so it’s OK.

I despise the banking system that inflicts usury on ordinary working people. We’ve seen the biggest transfer of wealth in history over the last four years, from working people to the already ultra-rich.

When I was doing my engineering apprenticeship, on Fridays the boss and the foreman entertained reps from engineering companies, who would be trying to sell us something new. They’d take them out to what the rest of the workers called The Pig’s Trough (= The Stone Trough in Kelbrook). Whatever the new product was, we rarely bought it. We’d ask stringent questions: ‘Who else is using it?’ ‘Why is it better than what we’re already using?’ ‘Will it save us any money?’

I’m renovating a little house from the bare brick upwards and I spend a lot of time in builders merchants, plumbers merchants and electrical suppliers. There’s a certain intrinsic wisdom amongst folk who have worked in a trade for a long time. They have niche expertise, and like us engineers, they’re deeply skeptical about anything new and untested.

Rhubarb patch

 

Rewind four years and Covid hits. By rights I should still be in engineering, but serendipity made me a doctor. Despite my imposter syndrome, I’m a senior consultant in an A&E department which is also a major trauma centre. Like all other medics, I have a private fear of what this virus might do to me. I’ve already heard of several deaths of healthcare workers in the NHS and beyond. What’s more, I live with someone vulnerable. Wtf am I supposed to do? For some reason, despite heavy exposure I never got Covid.

At work, we’re overwhelmed with the massive changes that we have to make to the department. We have to have isolated rooms to deal with patients who are badly injured who might have Covid. We have to procure full PPE and train every single member of staff to wear it properly. We lose two of our cubicles – one for donning PPE and one for doffing.

The vaccine is a while off and tbh, I don’t even think about it. When it arrives, I start reading up on it and am shocked to find that it uses technologies not previously used on humans. Medicines generally take 10 years plus to go through trials. This one is rushed through in less than a year, so no information on side effects is available and therefore informed consent isn’t possible. I start seeing alarming side-effects and I’m not buying the orchestrated narrative. It’s a new product so it’s entirely reasonable to question it just like we did back in my engineering days.

I want to be wrong, but I’m not. Why are funerals taking 3 weeks or more these days and why all the excess deaths in younger people from aggressive soft tissue cancers and thrombotic events?

We were lied to, cajoled and coerced en masse.

Background, social and professional status and political persuasion is irrelevant. There were those of us who trusted the shower of shite to stick a needle into our arms and those who didn’t. That’s how simple it is.

Butterfly

 

In full swing, there were indeed sick patients with Covid and our intensive care department had to expand by 50% to accommodate them. One of the consultants who I shared an office with, was also an intensive care consultant. We were talking about the risks of Covid one day and he nonchalantly said ‘You don’t have to worry Steve, you’re the wrong shape.’ That really gave me food for thought. The majority of patients in intensive care with Covid, were bigger, older men. Darker skin colour was also a risk factor. It was much later, when I looked into it, that I realised lack of vitamin D was a major factor. It’s poorly absorbed in bigger people.

In the event, the majority of my colleagues got a mild viral illness. No. It definitely wasn’t flu. It had its own unique features.

Inevitably, once you see the lies and deceit, you question everything else and it gets dark and deep. I tried to speak out but censorship was panoramic and I was dismissed as a loon.

At the moment, we’ve got worldwide elections looming and it really is a grotesque puppet show. The so-called leader of the free world clearly has advanced dementia. There’s a true pantomime going on in France. In England a scrawny little heinous billionaire plays out a particularly entertaining Punch & Judy, with the gong-carrying shill, the hat-wearing cat food eater and the Spitting Image puppet brought in at the last minute for a bit of extra spice.

Of course they’re all marionettes jigged by those with sinister intent further up the dark pyramid. Fuck them all for endorsing genocide.

The internet is a cesspit of controlled opposition and divide and conquer.

My Achilles heel is dicks who goes on social media spouting about what went on in hospitals during it all, without having worked in one. ‘Flu-rebranded’ and ‘There was no virus’ are red rags. They too are duped – that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work to prevent sensible pragmatic folk from uniting on common ground.

Branch logger on MF35

 

Beneath the rubble in Syria, Yemen, Sudan and so many other countries lie fragments of killing missiles. If you dust them off and look at the writing on them, they all trace back to the same handful of factories, most of them in the west, including some in the UK. This horrible trade is an endless profit machine for that monstrous minority.

The difference with Gaza is that it’s fully reported across our msm and the genocide is there for all to see. Alas the same shady handful who perpetuate this horror are the ones behind so much of the other stuff inflicted on ordinary people.

The peas are getting angry that their Twitter account is shadow-banned. The rye has unfriended the barley and the onions are annoyed about not being able to see other peoples likes.

There is a world ruled by the internet and screens and another ruled by nature and face to face connection. The revolution will not be televised.

Au revoir van

 

I am far from the madding crowd again. The best company is the magical little two year old. Watching his language develop is a joy. When he says ‘nail, nail, nail’ over and over again, he’s actually telling someone about the time that we found a snail on his toy dumper truck. When we come back from the park and he’s saying ‘mouse, pigeon’ over and over again to g’ma and mummy, he’s describing how we saw a couple of crows mobbing an escaped ferret.

Rock & Roll is sweet. We’re out and about doing our little gigs including a couple of forthcoming festivals – Landed and Solfest. Gaz and I are celebrating our Notsensibles legacy. The highlight so far, was playing at Braithwaite Institute. Michael Spencer came over from Australia and we spontaneously recorded Merl Haggard’s Somewhere between and Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Sam played double bass and M C Saga made an appearance. I need to finish the videos.

Braithwaite Institute

 

Sending out an SAE.

I got a letter of someone saying that they liked my book. It was a real thrill. I’m itching to write another and I have loads of plots and short stories outlined. I remember before the internet, the way that we got hold of rare records, besides record shops, was to scour the back of Melody Maker. You had to send an SAE. I’m fed up of the internet. Message me and I’ll give you an address to send an SAE. I’ll send you a list of plots and short stories. Chose one you fancy, and I’ll send you a chapter at a time.

Oops. Baby is waking up from his sleep on the settee. It’s probably time for a jaunt up the park to the play ground. We’ve already played on the ranch all morning with his new bike, sand, water and stones. Of course, we’ve checked the tractors in the barn.

Next weekend is special. It’s the summer solstice and a full moon rolled into one.

Destiny in Towneley hall