Tuesday, December 04, 2012



Friday, November 30, 2012

Aphid avoidance

By sowing broad beans in autumn, they flower a few weeks earlier than those sown in spring, when there are supposedly less aphids around to feed on the plants and potentially ruin the crop. Growing in an exposed position, they benefit from sticks or old raspberry canes for support.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Monday, November 05, 2012

Bad Apple

Four friends have experienced computer failure in the last fortnight and the reason that this blog hasn't been updated recently is because a once relied-upon brand has started to rot from the core:

At the start of the year I bought a refurbished MacBook Pro, after the PowerBook I'd been using for years started having kernel panics and threatening to die: I'd taken it to a friend for attention and reinstalled the OS, but in the end I daren't turn it off in case it wouldn't boot again and I had to resort to leaving it in sleep mode. The display had packed in some time before and would have been prohibitively expensive to replace, but I'd got used to running it with an external monitor until I could afford or was forced to upgrade.

The second-hand A1226 MacBookPro appeared to be in very good condition for a three or four year old model and importantly, came with a shedload of creative software (the software for the old PowerBook wouldn't run on the newer Intel Mac with Mac OS Lion). I'd bought a PowerMac from the same reseller thirteen years before which had served me well, also pre-installed with software, and although his prices were higher than those charged for reconditioned models I could buy elsewhere, installed with nothing more than the system software, it was worth it.

The transition to Mac OS Lion wasn't particularly advantageous as it doesn't support old USB audio hardware and various bits of trusted software were no longer available. Annoyingly, the Mail email software wouldn't work properly and couldn't recognise the outgoing mail server: Emails are received but can't be sent. Many handy features of the older OS are hidden or unavailable with Lion.

Peculiarly, the old PowerBook started behaving better and although I still daren't shut it down or risk restarting it unnecessarily, I continued to rely on it for months before getting into to the MacBook Pro.

Once upon a time, towards the end of the last century, Atari computers were arguably the best practical choice if you wanted to produce and play live electronic music on a modest budget, superceding the Alesis sequencer (which Orbital used to use eight of). When Apple computers became affordable, they proved as stable, reliable and long-lasting as their predecessors and had the added bonus of being ideal for photo and video manipulation too.

In the meantime, the internet had come along and Microsoft and PCs had taken over the home market, although they were still fairly useless for creative digital media manipulation, but slowly, once the soundcards were sorted out, it became possible to have a reliable and powerful setup that wasn't a Mac. Those entering the game on a budget were probably more likely to go for a PC, whereas those with years of good experience of Macs would upgrade to better models, or stick with existing and refurbished machines that carried on doing what they were supposed to do for years.

Then the worm got into the apple. Apple went off into the world of iPods, iPhones and iPads, started making computers in a similar way to PCs and in around 2007, so rumour has it, began using a different lead-free solder on the logic board, as a result of which the graphics chip is liable to become detached: This is what happened to mine and as I tried to boot it up, ten minutes after it had been working fine; despite a hopeful chime all it produced was the dreaded black screen of death.

Far from being a case of simply soldering it back on yourself, the solution that Apple offer is a replacement logic board for £390, which some believe is susceptible to the same problem. Some repairers offer to reflow or bake the chip back onto the board for half that price, although there's every chance that the same fault might reoccur after a few months, especially if the processor's busy and getting hot.

Some lucky people have managed to get Apple to replace the logic board for free, if the model is less than four years old: This was the first course of action recommended to me by the reseller I'd bought it from. After a painful and fruitless visit to my nearest 'genius bar', my model / logic board was deemed to be over four years old, despite trying to plead the case that being refurbished, the serial number on the case may not have related to the rest of the machine.

If that encounter was disappointing, the following phone call to the reseller was a kick in the teeth: Not only could he not offer a repaired or replacement logic board, but all he would pay for scrap value was £40. I stopped listening as he started to try to sell me another model for the same price of the original and tried to work out a way to reach through the phone to strangle him.

Thankfully, a friend took pity on me and offered a generous part-exchange, persuading me to buy an older refurbished A1211 model from him, which preceded the A1226 and doesn't have the graphics chip and solder issue. The hard drive from the faulty machine was easily swapped, giving me all the files and software back.

Much time and money, to return to where you were before. Built-in obsolescence?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Winner in extra time

A few more sunny days and some relatively warm weather has ripened the last of the sweetcorn. A couple of cobs will be saved and dried out to provide seed for next year's crop.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chilli non-machismo

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only crop to do really well this year, given the rubbish weather and blighted soil, has been the indoor chillies. They're quite mild, but unless you're one of those boastful chilli-eaters, they still perk up any dish.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

On Studland Beach

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Badger fodder

Late developing sweetcorn, unprotected, so the badgers can help themselves: Not a good time to be a badger. www.guardian.co.uk/environment

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom tom club

Finally, some ripe tomatoes.

Good enough

Harvested the first sweetcorn which wasn't quite fully ripe, but still delicious.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Although there are no Cox's apples this year, because despite plentiful blossom in the spring the hideous weather prevented insects from pollinating it, there's more than enough fruit around, but it takes a few hours to harvest and preserve: Windfall apples don't last long before the slugs, woodlice or badgers get to them and like the plums and greengages, once they've become bruised or pecked, rot sets in. The raspberries seem larger this year, perhaps swollen by the constant rain earlier, but many are slightly blemished with a touch of mould and like everything else, need stewing with a little sugar before preserving in the freezer for puddings and pies in the winter. Rhubarb's at its best when there isn't an 'R' in the month (in the northern hemisphere) so the last harvest was pulled today, bound for the freezer.

Besides the fruit there are runner beans, french beans and a courgette or two. Some of the sweetcorn is approaching maturity but it could do with another week of sunshine, as could the tomatoes, which are all still green, but at least not brown or black, yet. The beetroot haven't wanted to grow this year but a couple of gourd vines have established well and are producing interesting looking fruit, which may or may not be edible.

In the cut flower department, it's all been a bit of a downer: There are no dahlias or cosmos and only a couple of giant sunflowers have made it through. Bees will be hungry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Plum pudding

Despite a relatively poor crop of plums this year there are still more than enough, what with all the other fruit and veg that need harvesting, eating or preserving.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Apple pie

Windfall cooking apples a plenty, but damaged so they don't last and need using up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Raspberry pie

My friend tells me that he's been working on his raspberry pie. Apparently he doesn't need this lot (which is just as well 'cos there aren't many).

Friday, August 10, 2012


Harvesting several kilos of broad beans every week at the moment, which are known in Polish as 'Bob': I never tired of chuckling to myself every time I bought them from the fruit and veg man who parked his van next to Cinema Zacisze. "Half a kilo of Bob please."

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Green perpetuals

A few old broccoli and kale plants left in the ground from the spring have begun a second life. Most of the lettuce plants have bolted and are running to seed, the leaves are now bitter. New sowings either haven't germinated or have been hoovered up by slime beasts.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Elephant's eye v Badger's arse

The corn is as high as a badger's arse.

"There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky.

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling,
Everything's going my way."

Oscar Hammerstein II

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Good gourd

A couple of gourd vines have established themselves and are producing fruit very similar to the first stages of a pumpkin or courgette.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Doubtful maturity

Whether this year's tomato crop ripens before blight arrives or summer departs remains doubtful.

Friday, August 03, 2012


This stuff multiplies and looks like wildfire. It's sold in garden centres for about a tenner a small clump, which is a rip off, but if you invest you'd double your money in a year, if you could find anyone to buy it off you. It always heralds late summer and despite the wonky timing of most other growing things this year, the crocosmia's kept in step with the seasons.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Onion low

A paltry crop of onions this year, grown from sets that didn't get enough and then got too much water. At least no sign of white rot, which I've had in previous years when there have been bumper crops but instead of being self sufficient until mid winter, this lot won't last a couple of months.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Fruits of the gloom

Quite a few of the courgette plants succumbed to rot or slug damage, but a couple survived and have been producing fruit, not all of which have been eaten by molluscs or unexpectedly shrivelled.

Thursday, July 26, 2012