Birthday to birthday:

I thought that the 21st of Sept was going to be our last warm sunny day of the year so I relished every moment of it, basking in the sun as much as possible whilst pottering semi-gormlessly on the farmlet.

I was wrong. We had two more. The last was the 29th and the other was Sunday, which happened to be my birthday.

I’m crap at birthdays and they’re only significant in that all my recent writing projects have been birthday to birthday.

The first writing project was a Eureka idea to set out a list of goals for the year, then document achieving them as I went along. I did the documenting, but I panoramically didn’t achieve any of the goals. Despondent, I binned the idea and chucked the hand-written manuscript in a drawer. It took me a while to realise that the journey towards the goal was just as important as getting there. I started again from scratch and this time I was off like a whippet.

The result was Painting Snails  and I was adding last-minute current snippets right until I sent it to the printers.

The last writing project was simply to document the year as it went along, in the shape of a blog – warts and all. No cheating. I did it, and published the last post on the eve of my birthday with a great sense of relief. It was long but not rambling. Sweet and tender, fierce and brutal. Inspired by our wonderful leader’s Rule of six I called it How to start a revolution with just six people – check it out here.

New exhaust and seat on tractor


I had a good birthday, different to most of the others. My typical birthday pattern is to build up to a self-indulgent sulk in the preceding days. Something along the lines of ‘Another year gone and I’ve achieved fuck-all as usual’. ‘I’m surrounded by arseholes. No-one understands me’. On the actual day, I quickly descend into a full-blown twat-tantrum when some fucker buys me socks or underpants instead of a proper present.

This year, admittedly I did have a pre-sulk but the day itself was splendid. I got some excellent presents: a new exhaust and seat for the tractor from Louise; a crocheted carrot from Sarah; a condenser mic and studio mic stand from Elias and Sam; a Chilean Guava from Dewy and a cake from Gwen.

I spent most of the day on the ranch in the glorious sun, then went home and had a lovely little buffet soiree with our immediate support bubble (no more than six mind), supping sparkling white wines and having a laugh. 


crocheted carrot


I know that some people are thinking ‘Seriously De Pfeffel do you really think you can lock people in their homes away from friends and family, to lose their livelihoods and sanity? Fuck off and stuff it up your arse whilst you’re doing it. Everything you do is a spiral of lies and no-one believes your bullshit any more’.

Personally, I’m keeping an open mind. The social media algorithms are doing their job, and people who I previously thought to be well-balanced are turning out to be loons. The evidence for masks per se is sketchy, but on the whole, countries who have used them tend to fare better. If front-line workers are wearing them non-stop then it shouldn’t be a problem for the public to wear them when out and about. If you attend a big march without social distancing or masks and put smiley pics on social media, you lose all credibility, regardless of your arguments. I’m not the only one who thinks that you’re a complete dick – welcome to the register.

The BMJ have made their Covid content free during the pandemic, and I came across an interesting article here titled Operation Moonshot: What do the leaked documents say?  There’s reference to testing ‘via a sanction-based model’ and digital passports. Interesting stuff – well worth a read. I haven’t heard it mentioned on the news or elsewhere.

The debate over what constitutes sensible measures versus perceived erosion of civil liberties rages. As you would expect at this time of year, hospital admissions are rising. Graphs on the govt website here help contextualise them compared to the peak in April. I remain deeply sceptical of the privately-run testing programme and its correlation with actual illness. In Northumberland, according to the BBC, of 770 students testing +ve only 78 had symptoms.

Students, you’re our bright young things, our future. FFS think for yourselves and question everything.


Golden Lion, Todmorden


On the eve of my birth anniversary, my niece Esme and I walked to Tod over the tops and had ales and nosh in The Golden Lion. the scenery was utterly stunning. it was kind of poignant in a ‘twat returns to place of his birth kind of way’. Rachel picked us up. We were back in Tod last night for Rachel’s birthday. I’m fond of the place. We managed to get in the Golden Lion despite not having booked – big up to Louis for finding us a table.

In terms of what to write about and what to plan over the next birthday to birthday cycle, things have just clicked into place in a non-Eureka kind of way. I’ll do exactly what I’ve been doing for yonks: food-growing as part of daily life; music and art as part of daily life; the day job and linking it altogether as a model that can be extrapolated more widely.

The difference this time is that the goals I referenced earlier are already achieved – work, life, balance. Growing food, Rock & Roll etc – it’s just about watching them grow and involving other people. The stone has already plunged into the glassy pond – just need to keep up with the ripples. 

As ever, the annual cycle of the ranch and nature is the eternal glue. People in neighbouring allotments are starting to take an interest in food growing and colleagues are often asking me how to grow things.


Top floor of greenhouse


I’ve called it The Common Ground Project for want of a title. It will comprise Gardener’s World stylee vids and a book written along the lines of ‘how to grow food anywhere regardless of circumstance or ability’. We’ll be out and about, showing people how to do it. I’ll carry on with the blog – the unfolding story is just too interesting not to document.

As soon as I mentioned it to Dewy, he was on board. We’ve both been plugging away at organic gardening for decades kind of in parallel. He’s run a big permaculture project and a big restaurant organic kitchen garden. He’s always inviting me to ‘green’ type events and I never go, because I’m always busy on the ranch. He’s not dissimilar in appearance to Monty Don so he will look good on screen. Will irreverence and surreal humour feature? Too right.

He’s currently restoring the gardens at Dyneley Hall, originally designed by James Russell, a plant hunter who made trips to China long before it was open to the the West.  Russell went on to be head gardener at Castle Howard.

It was Dewy’s birthday on Wednesday and Gwen and I went over with a picnic to have a look. Cosima came out to chat at a distance. As soon as I mentioned the Common Ground idea, she came out with loads of ideas about doing it at a broader level using existing infrastructure. She’s extremely knowledgeable about local land law and geography. I told her about the saga of buying the allotment land as an association and she knew all the ins and outs of rights of way. She told me that the Blue Book (the law on rights of way) has been updated to a bigger ‘Green book’.

They (she and her pa sir Simon) have two gorgeous dogs – a silvery grey whippet and a border-Jack Russel cross. Later, when Dewy shows us round the garden, we come across the little grove with a pretty sculpture of two whippets and the graves of previous dogs. Sweet.

She’s coming to have a look at the ranch at some point.


October flowers on Bramley


Our long-term mutual friend Tricia shares mine and Louise’s vulgar irreverent humour. Last night, she sent Louise a hilarious pic of a blokes arse, with his trollocks hanging down like turkey giblets. There was speculation that it would be droll to send her back a tasteful buttock pic and I succumbed after some cajoling from t’wife. I was led to believe that I’d be receiving a reciprocal pic – I’m still waiting. I think I was tricked.

The last lingerings of the summer have gone and autumn gold creeps in. I only picked the last of the Bramleys last week and today I’ve spotted new flowers on the tree – it doesn’t bode well for next year’s harvest. There’s no denying that the climate is changing.

A highlight of my first week of my fortnight off was a full day’s wood-cutting: all the wood on the ranch; the back yard and a couple of Linda’s trees so that she has more light for her raised beds. There’s a least a year’s worth of wood for us and Lesley and Sam. Heating self-sufficiency – neat.

There’s slightly less to do on the ranch and more to do in ‘the studio’. I’ve started doing the long-delayed woodblock prints limited editions from the book. Today’s Sunday dinn is with 100% home-grown veg & spuds. It’s all part of a quiet revolution. Onwards and upwards.

Home grown spuds and veg