Snow management – 11 February 2021

Another day removing the snow from the paths and from the cars.

Scamp started the effort by brushing the snow from the roof of her car. Then while I got rid of the rest of the snow on mine and ran the engine for a while to get rid of the condensation that gathers on all the glass surfaces, Scamp started to get rid of the snow that had accumulated on the path in to our house and the next door neighbour’s. Most of it was wind blown snow, but a small amount was fresh snow. When she was finished and the car was dry inside, I used up almost all of our remaining white salt to make sure the path stayed clear of snow and hopefully of ice.

After lunch we went for a walk down to the shops, more for the exercise than for any great shopping expedition. I think we bought more food for the birds than for ourselves. The plan was for Scamp to walk back with the bags and I would go for a walk in St Mo’s. I changed it slightly to walk up the path behind St Mo’s school and along a path that I’ve walked many times, but today I was wearing wellies and I could just wade through the areas that I usually have to avoid because they’re too deep for my leaky boots. It was like a whole new landscape with hardly any landmarks because everything was covered in a white duvet of snow.

Went for a walk in St Mo’s and followed some deer tracks for a while, but never saw the maker of the tracks. The tracks looked fresh, but either they were hiding somewhere or were just over the next hill, or the next one again. PoD was a whin bush covered in a shiny ice crown. Shot into the sun it really sparkled. Everything else I took was just a cliché snow picture.

By the time I was coming home it was chilling down again and the temperature when I got to the house was -0.5ºc and it felt about a degree below that. We had bought some fat balls for the birds, so I put three of them on a tray in the back garden. An hour later they were all gone. I suspect it may have been a big black crow or a magpie that was the culprit. Even a flock of starlings wouldn’t devour three fat balls that quickly.

Yesterday’s sketch, posted today was the beach at Pigeon Point in Tobago. If you’re going to draw and paint a beach, make it a peach of a beach. Pigeon Point fits the bill.

Today’s sketch is a strange one. The prompt was ‘Draw’. What I drew was my right hand holding a graphite stick. If my right hand was the model, then my left hand was the one that drew the sketch. It’s harder than you think drawing with your left hand. Even knowing exactly where you want the lines to go, doesn’t mean that your muscle control will ensure it goes where you intended. A worthwhile exercise.

Tomorrow I might manage to get my car out for a drive. Today I got it to move, but not far. Scamp may have to wait until the mountain that’s in front of her’s has melted away a bit before she is mobile again. Other than that, it’s wait and see what the weather brings us.

50 – 30 January 2021

Today it’s exactly 50 years since we first met at our friends’ engagement party. That was a Saturday too!

It was cold and frosty with just the thinnest covering of snow, so it was boots and YakTrax just in case. Not a long walk today, just a couple of circuits of St Mo’s pond. I took the Sony plus kit lens and my old Sigma 105mm macro on the adapter. The Samyang 18mm is always in the bag. That covered all the necessary bases. Two circuits was what we predicted and that’s what we did. Cold, but not absolutely freezing. Most of the photography was of landscapes with the macro lens providing some arty-farty close ups. After lunch it was time for me to give a cursory glance at the photos and for us both to begin to prepared dinner and tidy up a bit.

Later in the afternoon a knock at the door signalled the arrival of a large box of beautiful flowers from Hazy, JIC, Neil D and Sim. (Alphabetical arrangements are always safest). To say we were taken by surprise is an understatement. It’s rarely Scamp or I are lost for words, but we were today. Thank you, you lovely people.

Dinner was a sit at the table affair and a full three course meal. We decided it would be appropriate to celebrate the fifty years since we met with a glass (or two) of Prosecco before dinner.

It began with a seafood starter. Mine being Prawn Cocktail and Scamp’s was Seared Scallops. Mains were Lightly Smoked Trout for Scamp and Sirloin Steak for me, served with potatoes. Dessert was Eve’s Pudding. All washed down with a very nice red wine. Music just had to be Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Later we tasted a bottle of Dark Matter (not the whole bottle, not yet anyway!). I had a small glass, neat and Scamp had her traditional Coke with her’s. Interesting taste of spice, something hot and treacle. We may need to try some more tomorrow, just to be sure. While sampling we watched a bit of TV and decided an early night would be best before the room started spinning too fast for us to find the door.

PoD was a landscape from the morning’s photo shoot.

Tomorrow will be the day of reckoning, I’m sure.

This, inevitably, is the catch-up write up.

Fishing, Pizzas and Ironing – 15 January 2021

I should make it clear that I didn’t do all of these things, but I was a participant.

Pizza for lunch. Hand made dough while Scamp ironed things. Too many things in my opinion, but at times she’s a perfectionist and demands her own standards. The pizza dough looked great. IMO the finished pizza wasn’t quite as great, however, Scamp disagreed as was her right. Too long in the oven or the oven too high, I’m not sure. My excuse is that it’s been a long time since I’ve made a pizza. Must try harder.

That’s Ironing and Pizza covered. The ‘Fishing’ is a bit of a red herring :-). What it really means is we “went for the messages”. We drove to M&S because we had a fairly long list of stuff to get and Scamp was coming down with the cold, but still wanted to get out the house for a while. Driving to M&S was the right solution today. The main items on the list by far was fish. Fish in its many varieties and colours. Fish on a Friday is traditional in some places, so it made sense. We got a few bits of veg too. Just a general shop really. We’ve got a Tesco delivery booked for Monday but sometimes you like to see what you’re buying, especially fruit and veg which Tesco are a bit hit and miss with. I think they throw some of the fruit into the basket from the other side of the shop.

So, Fishing, Pizzas and Ironing covered and explained. Another load of washing went into the new machine and came out drier than they did from the old one. I went for a walk in St Mo’s to get some more of the moss photos using a macro lens on my ancient Oly E-PL5. Solid and chunky. Hardly any plastic went into its construction, just glass and metal really. For such a tiny wee camera it weighs a ton. PoD was the little water drop jewel on a moss fruiting body. If you look on Flickr you’ll see its neighbour, the ‘Periscopes’.

Hazy: I finished Tales from the Folly, the short story collection we talked about. I’d managed to spin it out to one story a day, well, sometimes two a day. Mostly very good with the inevitable one or two duff ones. Good recommendation, thanks.
Now waiting for the price of “What Abigail Did …” to come down to a reasonable price, once it appears, that is. Now starting the last in the Slow Horses series. Another one I’ve been keeping on the back burner for a long time.

No plans for tomorrow. Weather looks cold and wet. I might paint something.

More snow – 8 January 2021

Woke to another dusting of snow. A light dusting this time.

Fed the birds to keep them happy and tried to defrost the birdbath, not that any of the birds would have been suicidal enough to attempt a bath in this weather, but they might appreciate some liquid water to drink. Lunch was Scamp’s savoury slice which warmed us up on a decidedly cold day. After that and a cup of coffee we felt it was safe enough to go for a walk to the shops to get today’s dinner. Which was to be Neil’s Italian Chicken.

On the way back I took a detour round St Mo’s in search of some beautiful sunny weather and some snow. I found both. The paths were slippy and I didn’t have my YakTrax with me, so I was trying to be careful and managed not to fall or even to slip … very much. Got my photos and even made my first ever video with the Sony camera. It was of a crow rolling in the snow! I’m guessing it was getting the snow crystals into its feathers to help it dust off the mites that were harbouring there.

Back home we spoke to Hazy who was eager to find out all about yesterday’s mysterious visitor. I was forgetting that Neil D had already performed the “cotton bud down the throat” trick with the same gagging response we had.

When we came off the phone we found that the washing machine was stuck at the spin cycle. It was still displaying 12 minutes to go, but the Spin light was flashing. Also there was a fair amount of water in the machine. We managed to get it to drain some of the water out and Scamp removed the wet clothes and took them up to drip off in the shower. Useful things showers! I found the drain pipe and drained off the remaining water, then tried to remove the pump filter. It wouldn’t budge. This machine is about 20 years old and I’ve maybe once needed to remove this filter. Either it is baked in or there is something inside blocking it. My money is on the second one and if I’m right, it’s money, some coins, that are doing the blocking. The only way to get into the filter is to turn the machine on its side and remove it from the bottom. Now that’s easier said than done because if I recall correctly there is a big block of concrete that acts as ballast for the rotation of the drum and moving that is going to be a job for a JCB. Scamp said a firm NO to that course of action. We tried the machine again and Lo and Behold, it worked. Not at its best, but we did get all the washing spun dry(ish). How long it will work before the aforementioned blockage returns I don’t know. We spent a good half an hour looking at prices and reviews of washing machines, then had a shortened version of the dinner we’d proposed, namely fried chicken with potatoes and broccoli. Then G&Ts all round.

Watched The Serpent on TV. Weren’t impressed, couldn’t be bothered with all the jumping back and forward through time so junked it. A bit of a wasted day, but it was good to talk to Hazy and I enjoyed both of my walks. PoD was a shot looking through the woods in St Mo’s.

Tonight a temperature of -7ºc is predicted. It’s already down to -6.5ºc, so it looks like the prediction may come true. Thankfully it may rain on Saturday or Sunday. When is the last time I’ve made a statement like that? I don’t think we’ll be going far.

The end of a year – 31 December 2020

A year we won’t forget, although most of us will wish we could.

It was snowing when I was making breakfast and it continued to show well into the afternoon. I finally put on my boots and snow gaiters and went for a walk in a sort of sleety drizzle over to St Mo’s and found my PoD. Not taken with the fancy Sony, but with my old Teazer TZ70 which is clean for now after being hoovered out a year or so ago and left to recover from that shock. It’s now much cleaner than it’s replacement, the the TZ90 that is a dust magnet. Anyway, PoD was a moorhen striding out across the snow on the frozen St Mo’s pond. Almost, but not quite black & white. A couple of circuits of the pond told me that there were no other animals or birds looking to be models for me, so I headed home.

It’s traditional to do a bit of tidying up on Hogmanay and as I said last night, I booked myself in to clean the kitchen cupboards, just the outsides, of course. Heavens, it would take a week to clean the outsides AND the insides. I’d like to say it wasn’t such a terrible task. I’d like to say that, but the truth is it was just as bad as I expected. I think we may have to reduce the amount of frying we do, especially deep fat frying. It’s not until you try to clean a cooker hood that you realise just how sticky everything becomes. However, it’s done now and the kitchen looks better for it.

I think Scamp may be coming down with the cold that I thought I had yesterday. Strangely I feel much better today and now she sounds like I did. Let’s hope she recovers as quickly as I did.

Dinner tonight was paella made in the new pan. It worked, but only just. Not the best pan for cooking a rice dish. All those little rice granules get caught in the same ribs that make steaks or chicken breasts taste great.
Note to self: Horses for Courses.
Paella may have been a miss, but the Viennese Shortbread, Scamp made was melt in the mouth. Lots more in a Lock ’n’ Lock box for tomorrow.

Temperature is a positive 3.7ºc now and the snow is still melting. If it freezes later in the night the roads will be a mess. I’m just glad I’m not having to drive. I couldn’t tell you the last time our respective cars turned a wheel. There’s just been no point, so they’ve been parked up for ages. Must make the effort in the new year, i.e. from tomorrow.

No real plans for tomorrow. We’ll probably stay up for “The Bells” tonight, have a dram or a gin and go to bed.

Looking back is what we do on this day, but this isn’t a year I want to look back on. Restrictions, Lockdowns and disappointments marred a terrible year. We can only hope that next year will be everything this year hasn’t been.

I think that’s my wish for 2021. I hope all my readers have a happy and a healthy New Year. Let’s keep looking forward, not looking back.

Another cold start to the day – 30 December 2020

Temp was -3.7ºc this morning. We were in no rush to go out.

Instead, Scamp started baking a couple of Dundee cakes. They should have had whisky in them, but she doesn’t like the taste if it (why!!?) so she substituted Calvados instead. I gave her a bit of help with the logistics. I held the paper cases open while she spooned the mixture in. I’m useful for some things.

With the cakes in the oven, I was staring out the window and I realised that there was a Long Tailed Tit pecking at the fat block that hangs from the tree. As we watched, it was joined by another four of them. They are very rarely seen near houses, preferring open country. I thought that if I grabbed my camera and went through the manipulations that are necessary to connect it to the adapter and to the long lens, the birds would be long gone. But no. They were still there. I managed two shots, then a blackbird seemed to startle them and they flew off. I guessed that now they’d found the fat blocks, they’d be back and sure enough about five minutes later they were crowding round the food. I managed a few more shots before they flew off again looking for something extra to finish their lunch.

Our own lunch was now calling us and I used the heat from the oven to warm through my slice of mince cake (I’ve got the last bit in the fridge for tomorrow). It was delicious and it disappeared in no time.

I wanted some more ammunition just incase the bird pictures didn’t work out, so I dressed for the just above zero weather and walked round St Mo’s. Scamp isn’t too keen to go walking in this icy weather, so she stayed home to admire her cakes and do some cleaning. I did get a few shots in St Mo’s, but nothing to compare with the birds from this morning. I walked down past the back of the school to the shops, but saw nothing of note. I was hoping for some deer, but they were off somewhere else today.

Back home and after dinner, it was the Long Tailed Tits that made Pod. I also got my first two or three calendars printed. Then the printer started banding a bit, so I think it needs the ink reservoirs refilled. I may do that tomorrow.

Tomorrow being Hogmanay, it’s the day for cleaning before we usher in a new year. I’ve volunteered to wash down the kitchen cabinets which are really badly in need of cleaning. Scamp will no doubt be similarly engaged elsewhere in the house.

F is for Fog – 3 December 2020

It rolled in on silent wheels today.

When we were having breakfast the snow was crisp and even. The hills were clear and there was just the hint of sun. Within an hour the hills had disappeared, as had the sun. Then the fog drifted down and the snow was turning into slush. I decided to go out and get an early(ish) moody photo in the fog. I waited on the path to St Mo’s to let a girl get past, because the slush was starting to freeze. It also gave me time to frame her into the shot you see here. I didn’t realise then, but that was to be PoD. By the time I’d walked into St Mo’s, the fog was lifting and the temperature was dropping. Scotland, the weather here just can’t stand still, it needs to be constantly changing.

Got another shot in the thinning fog of an old tree in the park with the faded forest in the background. Very moody and etherial. You can see it in Flickr. I wanted to get a shot of the ladybirds I’d seen yesterday (and also on the 3rd of December 2017 – how neat is that!). However, the light was a bit low and the snow was melting on the branches of the trees and it was just too uncomfortable. I got half a dozen shots and decided enough was enough. My feet were wet, my hands were freezing and I was going home. I got a few more icy and snowy shots before I stumbled home.

Scamp wanted some stuff in Tesco and we didn’t have a delivery booked until the 17th, so we decided to do it the old fashioned way and go to the shop. Beside which, Scamp wanted a look around, because sometimes you see things (too many things sometimes) that you’d forgotten to put on your list. So, we drove to Tesco. It’s the first time Blue has been out in the snow and it seemed to perform well. Not a hint of slipping and sliding. There were fairly long queues for the checkouts as we’d thought there might be. We had just reached the front of our queue when this woman appeared and seemed to want to sneak in front of us. Not that’s a red rag to a bull.

“Eh. Excuse me, there’s a queue.”
She looked nonplussed and said “I’ve been waiting here for a while. My husband has been keeping my place.”
“So have I” I said, “And I’ve been waiting IN THE QUEUE.” (the poor bloke hadn’t been in the queue)
She still wouldn’t give in, so I said quite loudly “SO, ARE YOU JUST GOING TO SHOVE IN THEN?” Loud enough that everyone nearby could hear.
At that she harrumphed and said “Well, if you’re going to be like that …” and walked down the aisle to the self service checkouts dragging her husband on his lead. Poor man. He’ll suffer for that later.

Back home we got our first Christmas cards of the year and got the decorations out of the loft. We also changed the upstairs and downstairs curtains. Tomorrow we are hoping to put the tree up. After that, I’m sure we’ll feel a lot better.

Tonight I painted the landscape that was in my head for yesterday. I really didn’t like the sketch of the tin of lager. The lager is good, but the drawing wasn’t up to standard. Tonight’s landscape, although one of my standards was much more satisfying to paint and also looked better than the tin.

Since I’ve now found a way to extract the data from the old NAS disk, I’m going to make a fresh start with a new NAS. Ordered it from Amazon tonight and it’s not a WD My Cloud. It’s a Synology DS220j. The WD worked quite well for the three or four years I had it, but it was erratic. Let’s hope this one is better.

It looks like more snow is forecast for early tomorrow morning and it’s -0.6º just now, so I doubt if we’ll be going far.

More bloody problems – 28 January 2020

Not satisfied with yesterday’s four bottles, the vampires want more blood.

Phone call at just after 9am from the doctor’s surgery to say that the blood I gave yesterday had arrived at the lab without any labels, so could I please donate more. I tried to explain that I have a limited amount of the red stuff in my veins and it would take me a while to replenish my reserves sufficiently for another donation. We agreed a date and time and the receptionist apologised for the problem. I’m sure she’s one of the vampires, because I heard her licking her lips as she put the phone down.

When I looked out the window the ground was white. No snow was falling and the sky was clear, but all around was crisp and even, just not deep. Two out of three will do me for a photo or two. But that would be later. It wasn’t even half past nine and I had a book to finish. February’s Son. Brilliant book.

After my morning coffee and after solving an incredibly difficult Difficult level Sudoku, I went out and cleared the snow from the car and drove Scamp down to Broadwood Farm for her lunch date with Mags. Got some bread and milk on the way home and then went out for a walk in St Mo’s with three cameras. Old EPL 5 with an ultra wide lens. New GX 80 with a wide zoom and middle aged E-M1 with a macro. Surely I had everything covered? Indeed I had. Lots of photos taken and all cameras used. Haven’t picked a PoD yet as this is an early version of the Blog. Happy with what each of them produced though.

Back home again and after lunch which was a piece ’n’ roast beef with garlic and coriander, just to dissuade any more hungry vampires pretending to be from the doc’s surgery. I made some soup. What Scamp calls ‘just soup’. In other words, nothing fancy, just soup. When Scamp arrived after walking back from lunch we finally put the Christmas decorations up in the loft and by that time it was late afternoon and it was getting dark. The clouds had sneaked in when we weren’t looking and taken away all that good sunlight from this morning, but not to worry, I did get some shots to prove I was out in it. The best one turned out to be the view along the snow covered boardwalk taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye. Not your normal, everyday lens, but what it does, it does well.

No plans for tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see what we get up to.

Isn’t it nice when a plan comes together – 2 April 2019

Drove in to Glasgow this morning and dropped Scamp off so she could go on a shopping trip, then went to see the nice man at JL about an Un-Fitbit.

The nice young man at JL had a good look at my faulty Fitbit and, after checking the receipt, immediately pounced on the fact that the screen was cracked in a few places, suggesting that the cracks could be the cause of the screen failure. I was ready for this and told him that it was a well documented fault on the Fitbit2 caused by differential expansion between the metal body and the acrylic screen. He said he’d have to go and check with ‘the techies’ to see what they’d say. When he returned he agreed that it was indeed a manufacturing fault and was nothing to do with the pretty black and white pattern adorning the screen of the now defunct Fitbit. Unfortunately JL didn’t have any Fitbit2s in stock now, only the more expensive Fitbit3, but if I was willing to pay the £20 difference, I’d get a new Fitbit3 with a new two year warranty. I paid the money, said thank you very much and walked out of the shop with a new fitness tracker complete with warranty.

Drove home, grabbed some photos off the iMac and stuck them on the Samsung Note to show to Val and Fred. Met Fred in the car park and we walked in through the rain to meet Val. Strangely, Fred was very generous to Morag when I told him about her retirement and agreed that she had had a raw deal. For once it was me who did all the talking, but both Fred and Val admired the statues and sculptures I showed them from the tablet.

Got home just after Scamp had returned from the shopping expedition. Quick lunch and then unwrapped the Fitbit, charged it up and got it sync’d to the iPhone. Seems to be working fine. Long may it continue. I was just thinking about taking it out for a walk in St Mo’s when the hail storm put an end to that idea. The hail lasted for about an hour and the white layer that looks exactly like snow is still there. I did manage an hour in St Mo’s later and got the PoD at the top of the page of the daisies pushing their heads through the hail into beautiful sunshine.

Gave Scamp a quick look at the potential of Lighthroom as a replacement for the deplorable ‘Photos’ app on Windows 10. It’s even worse than its twin on the Mac. Not sure if she is totally happy with it yet, only time will tell.

Tomorrow it’s “Put on your dancing shoes” time again.

S’no Snow – 3 February 2019

Last night when I went to bed the temperature was just on zero. This morning it was raining, so the temp was in the positive range.

By lunchtime the ice and snow as definitely on the back foot. There was liquid water in the bird bath although there was a decidedly large iceberg sitting in it. After lunch it was back to the ‘leccy cupboard again to investigate and empty the last remaining boxes, most of which contained light bulbs or screws. They were easily sorted, the ‘keepers’ stored and the ‘chuckers’ put in the bin.

That left PoD to be taken. I couldn’t decide what would fit that particular bill and eventually decided to go for a walk to St Mo’s to see if anything there was suitable. The light was poor, so landscape was out of the question. There was ice on the pond but the ducks and swans had managed to cut a hole in it right in the middle, so, well out of range of the 200mm end of the Panasonic zoom. Nothing for it but to rely on a macro. It’s getting like cut flowers and ‘Weemen’, a last resort. That’s what you see at the top of the page. It’s not the best macro I’ve done, but it was a chance to try out a noise reducing setting I’d seen on Flickr. It worked, but was not the great solution that the person seemed to suggest. Maybe I’m just hard to please. Surely not! By the time I came home from my walk the snow had gone and now it’s raining heavily and the temperature is almost 5ºc.

I’d bought a Hogged Shoulder Steak at the farmers market in Embra yesterday and cooked it for my dinner while Scamp finished off the roast chicken we’d bought on Friday. I must say the shoulder steak was delicious. I’ll be looking out for Annanwater at the Glasgow farmers market on the last Saturday of the month.

Today’s 28 Drawings Later sketch was of the veg I’m hoping to make soup from tomorrow. Scamp has already boiled the pulses, but as she’ll be busy with Gems preparation tomorrow, I’ll do the dinner. I liked the sketch. Colour needed a bit more saturation, but luckily Lightroom came to the rescue.

Spoke to JIC tonight and got his take on the implications of a no-deal Brexit (how I hate that name!) and dealing with new ‘mental’ neighbours.

That’s about it. Tomorrow is Gems day and we haven’t a clue what we did last week at salsa, so we’ll have to make it up as we go along, just the same as everybody else.