In order to do something different each week of the year, I have a list of challenges to undertake...

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Week 39 - Look out from a Vantage Point

I love being high up looking down on the landscape - like a king surveying his kingdom saying 'all this is mine!', and I'm still fascinated by Google Maps and it's bird's eye views.

There's nothing like the real thing, though, so whilst on holiday, I went to investigate a vantage point. Overlooking the town of San Juan, in the south west of Tenerife is a big hill with a sculpture on the top. I've often looked up at the sculpture and wondered what it was, and decided this time to get myself to the top of the hill and have a look.

After a strenuous climb, I reached the sculpture at the top of the hill. Disappointingly there was nothing to tell me what it is - it looks like a snake's head to me, but that does seem unlikely.

However the views back down to the harbour and beach were fabulous, and I spent ages with the binoculars seeing Sunday morning passing by below me. 

Excellent fun - and my week 38 Challenge completed!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Week 38 - Clean the Oven

Here is a true Challenge - who can ever say that this is a job to be relished? Nope - didn't think so.

Funnily enough, I always thought that cleaning the oven came into the general category of 'unpleasant but infrequent household jobs about which you have to grit your teeth and get on with', but when I mentioned oven cleaning to various friends and relatives, I was astonished at how many get the OvenStar man in to do the job. 'It's £40 well spent,' they say, 'and they do SUCH a good job - better than you could do yourself!' 

Hmm. Well forty quid is forty quid, and provided that you haven't let your oven get to the health-hazard stage, this is something you don't have to get a chap in to do, and I would resent spending my hard-earned on. A much better plan is for me to clean the oven and spend forty quid on beer or something.

I'm starting from a good position here - I've banged on before about how in love I am with my delightful kitchen and range oven; it's all only a couple of years old, but it's been 12 months since the oven last had a good going over, I'm sure.

Brillo is your friend here, on the shelves and burners, and on stubborn burnt on bits on the windows and inner door/top/bottom - the enamel, chrome, glass top gets a good going over with flash and a cloth. And elbow grease.

I even changed the extractor filter, washed the cover and all the tiles at the back and units above. I got the steps out and cleaned all the (rather revolting) greasy sticky stuff off the top of the wall units, trim and extractor ducting.

And to surpass all expectations I took the grill off the front and got a cloth-on-a-stick to clean all the floor underneath. The only frustration is that I would have liked to pull the whole thing forward to clean the sides too, but if I had have done that then I would have been looking at 'week 39 - recover from hernia', so that's for another occasion when I've eaten 3 shredded wheat, or something.

And here's how it's turned out.

A very satisfying completion to my week 38 Challenge!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Week 37 - Grow a Plant for Seed

Normally, when I grow beans and peas, I save a few pods for drying, and they can be used in stews over winter, and for sowing next year. Easy peasy.

What is rather more unknown territory is seed saving from other types of veg. So this season, I have let one of my radishes sprout a big old flower stem in order to let it go to seed and collect the seeds.

It's been quite a surprise, and I've learnt a lot:

  • firstly, given that radish goes from a seed sown to eating a radish in about 6 weeks, the whole going to seed business has taken AGES - over 4 months from flowering plant to seed pod gathering. 
  • Also, a radish grows into quite a sizable bush - certainly 2'-3' in diameter. 
  • I found that the bees and all manner of insect love the little white flowers, and have been all over it all during the summer. 
  • The flowers lead to pods, which I think are edible - although I missed a trick there and didn't think to try them. 
  • And finally, you don't get many radish seeds to a pod, and they are really fiddly to extract from the papery membrane inside. 

Given that radish seeds are about 29p for a packet of 1,000, I don't think that I'll be doing this particular plant experiment again, but I've learnt plenty, and that's my Challenge done!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Week 36 - Get Serious About Running

I am a reluctant runner. When I am out plodding the streets with my wet weekend face on, mothers hide their small children on my approach; old people hurry across the road; builders hold their wolf-whistles, and stare in silence at my passing.

I hear of a 'runner's high', but I have no idea what it is - the nearest I get is 'thank goodness THAT'S out the way', when I stop. It is true, the hardest step is the one out of the front door - I am the queen of prevarication, and the number of times that my 'lunchtime run' has morphed into 'afternoon teatime' is without measure.

So why have a started an 8wk virtual 10k training course at Up & Running?

For one thing, I am doing it for the 'running = cake' reason - I love my grub, and I love a glass or two of red or white, or beer; I'm in my mid-forties, and want to avoid becoming the size of a barn.

I am hoping that the this course will change my attitude to some degree - I know it can't possibly brainwash me into wearing an 'I LUUURVE RUNNING!!' vest any time soon, but I am looking forward to seeing how I feel at the end of the course.

My big brother is another factor. He fascinates me, as he is a natural athlete, he loves running, he goes a bit funny if he can't get out and run. I do wonder how come we are related sometimes, I really do. But he has encouraged me every scowly-faced, ploddy-step of the way. He is my biggest cheerleader, and I'm touched that he SO wants me to get as much out of running as he does, and I guess that I am flattered that he is Taking An Interest in what his little sis is up to - I feel included in his and his friends' hobby, and that's a good thing.

What I am looking forward to is learning the technique of running - I know that at the end of the day that it's just putting one foot in front of the other; but I want to be like my bro when he is running - head up, confident, in charge of his body, powering through!

The alternative look is what I saw when I ran the Great Midlands Fun Run in June - I observed the group of (mostly) women who I was more or less with through the whole route, and sneered at their red-faced, big-bummed waddles and shuffling gait - how uncomfortable they look! How inelegant! When the penny dropped that I BET THAT''S WHAT I LOOK LIKE, I very nearly stopped dead in my tracks there and then.

I do not want to be a waddler or a shuffler, I want to be A RUNNER.

And that's why I've taken it to the next level - and my week 36 Challenge is underway!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Week 35 - Re-chipping the Allotment Paths

When I made the raised beds at the Hill about five years ago, I laid weed suppressant between the beds, which (is supposed) to stop the weeds growing, and then as many piles on as many woodchippings as I could get on, which means that even in the depths of Winter, you don't get your feet muddy on the plot. 


The woodchippings rot down in time, and every two or three years they need replacing or topping up. It involves a strenuous session with a flat shovel scooping the remainder off the paths and chucking it on the beds at each side.

If this is done in January, then the next step is to collect replacement chippings, in the form of chipped Christmas trees which can be collected from the park a couple of miles away where you fill up any containers you can find, load them into the back of the car and take them back to the Hill. It takes many such trips, and is a tedious chore.

Occasionally, we do have woodchipping delivered to the Hill, though - and a great pile will appear and be pounced upon by all, as this is by far the softer option to carting chippings from the park.

These week was one such occasion! Once I'd cut back all the plant growth impeding the paths (squash and courgettes in the main), and pulled any weeds on the paths, I got busy with a big bucket, a shovel, and the chippings heap.

It took two sessions and I lost count of the bucketloads, but here is a thoroughly spruced up plot - and my week 35 Challenge - completed!