Friday, 13 January 2017

Stirring It

The 100-400 mm 'pap' lens I use for the moon close-ups
and some of the wildlife pics.
A short-ish post, this one and another where the photo's bear little relevance to the main story. When you know what that is about you will understand, I am sure. The pics in this one are some of these final '365' project shots saved from the dying embers of the 'year'. There are also a few 'snow scenes' from the rather pathetic flurries of wet sleety snow that we have had over the last day or so. Who can resist a Christmas Card scene after all?

Candle Snuff fungus growing in our front lawn.
My "Stirring It" title comes from the main task today. In my youth, our family in-jokes and clichés frequently had us accused of "stirring it" and family members were occasionally awarded the 'wooden spoon' for stirring above and beyond the call of duty. The job, which I volunteered for before I knew the detail of what was involved was to help a friend re-start a fancy septic tank system which had become a problem.

One of our favourite Irish cookery books, Theodora Firzgibbon
Our septic tank here is the basic one, a single tank where digestion happens (if you're lucky and you don't put too much bleach down it!) followed by a big pit filled with broken stone and beach pebbles which drains away sideways into the half acre field as a whole. This one today was a much more fancy affair; a real eco-bio-digester arrangement with 3 formal chambers and then the stone-filled pit but followed by 3 beds which take and use the nutritious clean 'water' outflow.

The first beer that came to hand as I came in from the snow
and North wind; Shepherd Neame's 'Summer Sizzler'
The first is yellow flag irises, the 2nd tall bull rushes and the 3rd is willow which, I am told. puts up 20 feet regrowth every year and which they can harvest for making hurdles, wicker work or even, if they wanted to shred it, bio-mass for solid fuel fired heating.

First snow flurries.
Their problem was that after a particularly warm and busy weekend in August (lots of guests, the digestion process in Tank #1 had been over-whelmed and the solids were now acting as a dam. We needed to re-mix this crusty mass and get everything gently flowing again in a down-hill manner. Ah well, in for a penny, as they say. We had to ignore the fact that the first snow of 2017 was all over the ground. I had made it there after all. These guys live up on what is called an 'upland bog' here. They are at the top of a mini mountain but that does not result in the good drainage you would expect. Their land is basically bog or forestry with only a few acres round the house 'improved' to grassland or hard standing.

The full moon sinks towards the snowy
To cut a long story short, an hour or so of stirring and scraping the deposits off the sides of the tank had it all chopped up and converted back into a flow-able "slurry" which we could now see was starting to move downhill to the next tank and the lady suggested we wash our hands and come indoors for warm sausage sandwiches. Job done. I wish they were all that easy.

Snow in the lane this morning
The snow had been forecast since Tuesday and I was yearning for it like a child. This not because I wanted to rush out and start a snowball fight with the neighbour's children or build a snowman, but for the '365' picture potential. I am almost at the end of the year of photography now and seriously short of inspiration on what to submit for 'today's three photo's'. There are only so many pictures of ruined barns, cute calves and pretty flowers that you can get away with and some Christmas Card snow would give me an easy ride for 24 hours.

Hey ho. Just like when you were a child, snow always seemed to let you down, flurrying down in disappointingly small quantities and failing to "stick" (we used to say "settle" in Hastings) no matter how many times you looked out of the window. Well, it is no different for 59 year old '365' photographers and I was not to get my Winter Wonderland. I had to try to make the most of the dusting and a convenient full moon.

I have to be careful what I wish for, of course. The year before we arrived here (so 2010/11) they had a brutal winter with temperatures down in the -10ºC area and 18 inches of white stuff. People were nipping off to the village PO in tractors because there is no gritting or snow ploughing round here. You just have to stock up on supplies, shovel your drive (and the neighbour's) clear and wait for the to-ing and fro-ing of farm vehicles to make the roads drive-able again when a thaw comes.

We don't want too much of that. I'd sooner do without the 365 snow scenes. Stay warm.

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