Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wood pile

I was galvanised into (supervising) action by reading littlegreenblog.

Him Next Door has been raring to go and worried about our log reserves since before we started using last winter's store.  We are lucky and have an abundant supply of logs to hand as we have common land trees next to our garden, which we help manage.  I was quite shocked to find that even wet softwood logs can cost from £70 per 1m3.  The price only goes up with quality and dryness, about £130 for kiln dried.  1m3 wouldn't last long at all. 

Our main problem is that the logs are still attached to the growing trees.  The job of lobbing off and then pulling up branches from the rather steep valley is very firmly in the domain of the men of this clan.  Thank goodness for the ride on mower, which doubles as a miniature haulage vehicle.  Once the branches have been brought to the top of the valley the mower is used again, complete with a trailer made from an old plastic container fortified with a wood frame.  The cut logs are carried using the trailer to their penultimate resting place, the wood store.

Our wood resource - free, bar the labour.
Him Next Door recently built a second wood store, which is much nearer the house than the old one.  The old one now stores wood that we have acquired or can reuse and that is perfectly good for DIY projects in the future.

Our new wood store.
We (that's the royal we) need to continue filling our new store, which goes three logs deep, to see us out this winter.  At least now we're half way there.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

As weeds go, this is the biggest thug of them all

On the common land adjoining our garden we have a beautiful valley, with a stream running through it and a wood. Amongst the trees though is Japanese Knotweed, it can be difficult to get at on the steep slopes of the valley but get at it I do.

We are on our annual hunt of this voracious plant. Before we moved I didn’t know what it was, I sure do now.

Once established, it tends to shade out native plants by producing a dense canopy of leaves early in the growing season and germination of our native plants is further compounded by the thick mulch of decaying canes and slow decomposing leaves left by the Knotweed in the winter. Although Japanese Knotweed is non toxic (edible even - it tastes like mild rhubarb apparently), it offers a poor environment for native insects, birds and animals.

Japanese Knotweed was first introduced to the UK as an ornamental plant by the Victorians. The problem is that it grows unbelievably quickly and it’s a highly invasive species. Currently Knotweed is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This makes it an offense to either plant or cause (or encourage) the plant to grow in the wild. However, there is no obligation to report or remove it if it is growing on your land, but it really is wise to do so; if you see anything like the below appearing – kill it instantly-ish.

Kill it - instantly-ish...
When it comes to removing Knotweed though, it isn't easy. Japanese Knotweed is known for its ability to re-sprout from very, very small pieces of plant and its roots can reach 7 metres horizontally and 3 metres deep making it difficult to remove by digging out.  The majority, if not all plants outside Japan are female so it doesn't have viable seeds here in the UK.  Knotweed spreads either by its own encroaching growth(rhizomes grow rapidly underground) or by regenerating from pieces of the plant or root system that are cut and transported by people or by water.  As we definitley don't want to spread it this makes cutting back and digging out too hazardous for us with such an established problem in a difficult to access area. 

One of the most effective methods of eradicating Japanese Knotweed is with the use of herbicides. For the best results apply just before the Knotweed's flowering, which generally occurs in late summer or early autumn. We use Glyphosate, we use it whenever we see a plant with enough leaves unfurled to make spraying viable we are so paranoid; also it can be very difficult to spray the plants when they are taller than you. This chemical penetrates the whole plant, including the root network.

We have been spraying since we moved here three and a half years ago and although it is obviously still with us the Knotweed has certainly been retreating and is nowhere near as prolific as it once was.  Knotweed can lay dormant for 20 years so our vigil will have to remain in place for many more years to come.

There is a trial at the moment involving an insect that feeds on the sap of the Knotweed plant stunting its growth – but this may or may not work, and even if it does it could be ten years before it reaches us.

Doing nothing is not an option.

As tall as I am - in just this growing season.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Mother Love

This week's topic from Sticky Fingers is Mother Love.  Through the beaming smiles the picture below says it all, taken at my Gran's 100th birthday party; she is flanked by her three loving daughters.

Here is a poem that was read to Gran by her daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren as part of her birthday celebrations.

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Last Thursday we noticed our download speed had decreased from the normal heady heights of about 500 Kbps to about 90 if we were lucky.  Although we were still receiving email, using Remote Desktop or the Internet generally was simply hopeless.

My heart sank (we've been through this frustrating process before).

We called our phone service provider.  A BT engineer eventually spoke to us Saturday and although he tested the line and said it was fine (we had deduced that as we were talking on it and it was as clear as a bell), he said there was nothing else he could do for us.  His hands were tied.

We knew that in our nearest village of Maenclochog the Post Office, Sarah's Newsagents and General Stores and Ysgol Gymunedol Maenclochog were affected (the village is over three miles from us) and we also knew all our neighbours were in trouble.  Even though we told the BT engineer this, this information was apparently 'irrelevant' - how can this be?

I know for a fact that many of our friends and neighbours had to go through the rigmarole and expense of swapping out routers (shops that supply IT hardware are about an hour round trip for most of us) and fiddling around with the micofilter.  This along with dire warnings that if the engineer arrives on site and it is found to be the fault of your equipment you will be charged hundreds of pounds.

Why can they not join the dots?

Our ISP could tell there was a problem at the exchange in Maenclochog on the Thursday when we first raised the issue.  Apparently though the powers that be have to wait for enough ISPs to call in and complain before they look further than the end of their nose.  This can take a while in an area where there are fewer businesses using the Internet on a daily basis and the population is generally low.  It took until Monday afternoon until we were back in business - literally.

This weekend it has dropped to a crawl again.

We are running an IT company in a very rural area.  It is crucial we have broadband to operate.  But no-one seems to care at BT.  Come on UK PLC, we need to do better than this.

We spoke to our local MP's assistant after last weekend's debacle and it looks like we will be speaking to them again come Monday.
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