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It is Just a Telephone and it is not Smart

Once again I’m in the wrong century. On the odd occasion that I do stray into the real world I’ll see people constantly walking along talking to or looking at their mobile phones. On other occasions when I go to a restaurant it’s not unusual to see four people sit down together get out their phones and start texting or doing whatever they do with them. How  fecking stupid is that?

respect

The only ‘smart’ thing about a phone is the company that sold someone an expensive contract to keep the money rolling in whilst they trade drivel with their ‘friends’.

For the record I do have a mobile phone for emergencies and the odd call. It’s about 10 years old on a PAYG contract and the quarterly bill is sometimes around 3 pence.

Don’t even get me started on the morons who go to hear live music and spend the whole concert pointing their phones at the stage. Dickheads the lot of them.

Phone Feckwits the Lot of Them
Feckwits the Lot of Them
My Sort of Place
My Sort of Place!

I don’t normally add addenda to blog posts but I just (23rd August 2013) read the following UK statistics, which confirms to your writer that there really is no hope for the human race – a complete species of feckwits. The only real glimmer of hope is the thought that the radiation may fry their gonads before they can breed.

The average British child gets their first mobile phone aged almost 12, but nearly one in ten (9%) have one by the age of five.

Parents spend an average £246 on their own handsets, compared to £125 on their children’s but one in ten children under 16 (11%) have mobiles worth more than their parents.

More than four in ten parents (42%) don’t monitor their children’s mobile spend and just a quarter (25%) cap their kids’ contracts.

Children spend an average £11 per month on mobile bills less than parents who spend £19 but more than one in ten (11%) spend more than their parents.

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Building a Pole Barn Part 4

The fine spell of hot weather in July 2013 has meant that we can ‘crack on’ with getting the barn erected. Previous posts are here

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

At the end of part 3 John and Jonathan were leaning smugly against the frame having assembled it. After Jonathan went back home to Spain, I (John) carried on fixing the 75mm x 50mm purlins across the rafters. These are necessary to support and fix the roofing sheets. I decided to use simple corrugated steel sheets for the roof. These are not too expensive or too heavy and are easily fixed. As the shed is partly open condensation should not be too much of a problem in winter. The sheets can be bought as plain galvanised or painted or plastic coated with the price and durability increasing accordingly. I went for the latter (most expensive and most durable) in a slate grey colour.

John and Purlin
Here you can see the purlins that John is resting the ladder on. They are nailed to the rafters and also have galvanised straps at places for ‘a belt and braces’ approach to gusting wind!

Each sheet of corrugated steel is 1m wide when lapped with its neighbour and they can be bought in any length to cover the exact span (remembering to leave enough overhang for the gutter). In my case I am overlapping them a tad more to save cutting the last sheet. It is of course essential that the first sheet is positioned correctly or they will all start ‘running out’ of alignment.

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John marks where to fix the sheets by hooking a line over the last fixing and along the centre of the purlin.

The position of the fixings can then be marked. The Tek screw fixing are self cutting but I found it easier to either drill a pilot hole or just bang a small nail through.

John marks where to fix the sheets
The sheets are fixed through the top of the corrugation, not the valley, to prevent leaks. The screws are self tapping but I found it easier to make a starter hole with a nail.

If you don’t carefully mark the line of the purlin you risk having a hole in your roof and nothing underneath to screw into!

The Tek screw has a rubber collar
The Tek screw has a rubber collar to prevent water ingress.

The screws should be tightened down until they are holding firmly but not crushing the corrugation. They can be capped of with plastic caps (a dab of silicone under the cap before putting them on is not a bad idea to stop them coming loose).

It is screwed into the purlin with an 8mm nut driver on an electric drill
It is screwed into the purlin with an 8mm nut driver on an electric drill
Here you can see the fixed roof with another sheet waiting to be fixed.
Here you can see the fixed roof with another sheet waiting to be fixed as I work my way across the roof.

So the roof will soon be finished and then I only have to fix the side cladding boards and do a bit of tidying up etc which I hope to show in the last part.

Go to Part 5 (the finished barn!)

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A Circular Walk Around the Teifi Pools

We haven’t posted a walk for a while, not because we haven’t done any walking  but because of a general lack of inertia when it comes to posting the details.

The Cambrian Mountains are a wild and empty plateau lying between the Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons National Parks. They are Wales’ fourth national park in-waiting; designated in 1972, the Park was later cheated of recognition and protection, by an unholy alliance of landowners and politicians. It remains surprisingly unknown to a lot of people.

The Teifi pools lie to the north east of Strata Florida and are a group of lakes situated about 1500 ft up the western slopes of the Cambrian Mountains and this is a rather exceptional walk on a fine day. It can get very wet underfoot so good boots (and gaiters?) are essential pretty much any time of year.

Teifi Pools Map
Teifi Pools Map

As we are in the middle of an unusual heatwave in July 2013 we set off in the campervan the night before to make an early start. The walk is approached from a ‘no through’ road from Strata Florida and there is parking for about 3 or 4 cars at the point marked on the map above. There was no one else there at around 10.00 pm other than a lot of midges! So we camped there before setting off about 5.30 in the morning. The walk starts about 100 metres BEFORE or west of the parking place not where the footpath is shown in the map  If you try and take this route you’ll be going straight through a farm (Tyncwm) full of barking dogs. The path is an easy uphill, past a cairn, until you reach Llyn Egnant. Here the track becomes tarmac as it is a service road for the reservoir. Keep going until you reach a ‘T junction’ then turn left.

Llyn Egnant in the mist
Llyn Egnant in the mist early on a summer morning

Continue along this track with Llyn Hir on your left until you come to a board indicating that you have reached Llyn Teifi. Turn left and follow this track, through a gate until you reach the dam. Go through the small double metal gates then follow the track under the dam. Follow the lake side across all the other small dams. Once you have gone across the last one turn back sharp right and find the fairly indistinct track down the valley. Keep going down until you reach a small cairn, just ahead is a waymarked fence. Follow the path along the fence. The path turns away (left) by a marker post and goes up to another small cairn. The track should be more distinct now.

The Teifi Pools as the mist clears
The Teifi Pools as the mist clears

Follow the track towards the farm Frongoch. Go through the gate and in front of the house turn right and go over the ladder stile in front of the farm buildings. Keep following the track all the way to Troed-y-rhiw. When you come to the white holiday cottage there is a gate on the left, go through it into the field and follow the path across the field to a stile. Go over the sile and follow the contouring path down to the road. Turn left on the road and walk back to your starting point.

The walk is about 6.5 miles in total.

 

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Building a Pole Barn Part 3

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 you can find them here
Part 1
Part 2

The foundations  were finished around July 2012. Each pier has a galvanised anchor strap set in it an the columns will be secured to these.The foundations are finished

The foundations were finished in around July 2012

Unfortunately everything then went on hold due to a combination of the wet weather and us starting the building work on the house. I found a local sawmill here in Carmarthenshire and Rocco at Talley sawmills sourced some larch and cut it to my specifications. Rocco is definitely a ‘character’ and not necessarily the fastest but he found, cut and treated all the timber for me for a very reasonable price. So I’d definitely suggest that you ‘sound out’ your local saw mill for a project like this.

In essence I am using 200mm x 200mm upright columns each with a cut in one end to accept 200mm x 100mm cross beams; these will be bolted together. Then rafters will span across the barn and these are  200mm x 100mm above each column with (2) 200mm x 50mm rafters in each bay.The latter will be secured by upside down joist hangers. Each column will rest on the concrete pads with a d.p.m. and be secured to the galvanised straps in the concrete base.

Sounds complicated but should become obvious from the photos.

It was several weeks before the timber was delivered and things gradually ‘slipped’ so it was not until June 2013 when Jonathan, our son, came home again and he was press ganged into helping with some of the heavy lifting that we started the build. When we first erected the columns we decided that the barn was just going to be too tall. It would be fine on a working farm; but would be too visible in the landscape. So with the help of a chainsaw I reduced the columns to a height that gave sufficient access for a tractor but that was not too high so as to be visible from the house and from the other side of the valley.

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After Erecting the 200mm x 200mm Columns the 200mm x 100mm cross beams are drilled and bolted in place.
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Then the Rafters are Placed Across the Span

Getting the first cross pieces into place was a tad tricky as nothing was really secured and it was all a bit wobbly! But after we started to drill and bolt the joints the frame started to become more rigid. We then had to constantly check that columns were plumb and that distances were the same between openings etc. But after around two days work we had the basic frame in place. It still needs horizontal rails to board the external boarding to and needs some purlins/battens across the rafters to fix the roofing sheets to.

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The 200mm x 50mm Rafters are Put in Place First and Secured with Joist Hangers
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The barn frame takes shape; just the 4 thicker (100mm) and heavier rafters to be put in place; one above each column. Luckily a friend dropped by at just the right moment to help with the lifting!

We also found that it needed some triangular braces between horizontal beams and columns to increase its stability.So these were duly added and treated with preservative.

_DSF1234
Cross bracing and detail showing bolts and joist hangers
_DSF1233
The Finished frame for the barn; now you can see why we didn’t want it to stand out in the landscape. The excess soil heaps will be landscaped and planted to form a screen. It is really important to us that it is not visually intrusive.
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John and Jonathan prove that it will not fall down by leaning on the finished frame!

But at least it is starting to look like a shed. The next post will show the roof and boarding, just as soon as I’ve sourced these! Whilst I don’t have prices for these yet I’m expecting the whole barn to cost around £1500 – £2000 which I don’t think is too bad for a 12m x 5m barn. It could be built for half of this by careful sourcing of things like second hand roofing sheets etc.

Disclaimer; I am not a structural engineer or a builder so the whole project is more ‘belt and braces’ than calculations and you should not rely on my design for your own building!

Go to part 4

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The Laugharne Weekend

Spring 2013 has seemed long and cold and whilst still cold, the days have recently been dry and bright. So on a lovely sunny and bright Friday afternoon we found ourselves heading off to the small town of Laugharne here in Carmarthenshire. Laugharne is not far from where we live and is best known as being the home of Dylan Thomas from 1949 until his death in 1953.

The Laugharne Weekend
The Laugharne Weekend

Every spring Laugharne hosts an absolute gem of a music and arts festival and to our shame we had never been before; in fact before moving here we had never heard of it! But having gone to Hay festival last year to see Chris Wood in concert and not been impressed (not by Chris Wood who was excellent but by the whole corporate bollox) as it was full of trendy people from London having a ‘few days in the sticks’ before they rushed back to the city for a shower, a latte and the security of street lights. I really should have known better about Hay Festival as it is sponsored by the Telegraph Newspaper (enough said).

The Laugharne Weekend is the complete opposite and is clearly run for pleasure rather than profit. Laugharne very much reminds me of Kinvara in the west of Ireland and it proved extremely confusing, as I overheard in a conversation, for those from the city who did make it here. The locals had cunningly extracted all their cash from them for board, lodgings and refreshments but had failed to advise them that things like cash machines don’t exist in small towns in Wales. Not sure how they would get on where we live with no mobile phone signal either but I expect that you can get counselling for such trauma.

The Castle at Laugharne
The Castle at Laugharne

We parked by the church and had a walk round. It really is glorious down by the estuary on such a grand day – as Beth Orton remarked in her set later in the evening; ‘It’s fecking gorgeous’ or words to that effect. After getting orientated and collecting our wristbands we headed off to the Millenium Hall where Joe Boyd was to give a talk, based around his book ‘White Bicycles’, about his time working with the late Nick Drake. Joe was pretty much responsible for a who’s who of music in the late 60’s and 70’s (He was Muddy Waters’s roadie once as well) and here he was on the pavement in our remote part of the world shouting across the road to Robyn Hitchcock who had just turned up with a guitar and who was wearing a hat like a dead cat to insulate him from the chilling air. Joe’s talk about Nick was interspersed with music from Robyn Hitchcock, Charlotte Greig and Keitel Keinig (the latter who did a very emotional version of River Man). All in all a pretty fine opener.

We returned later for Beth Orton’s gig in the packed hall. ‘Oh look’, I said, ‘there’s Sam Amidon‘ who was tuning up on stage before the gig – we didn’t think he would be playing. Sam is Beth’s husband and son of Peter and Mary Amidon who are pretty well respected folk musicians in Vermont. We had last seen him last year at the Gloaming concert in Dublin with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. Sam is also the childhood friend of Thomas Bartlett or ‘Doveman‘ who is another astonishing musician who has worked with all sorts of people including producing an album for Hannah Cohen whose grandfather was a friend of Dylan Thomas (I think I just went ‘full circle’ – you still with me?). To cut a long story short; Sam is a damn fine musician and I felt that he accompanied Beth perfectly with guitar, fiddle and vocals at this rather good gig in a village hall in Wales.

As we had splashed out on a weekend ticket we headed back on Saturday to ‘fill our boots’ with more music and culture. This can prove to be a bit of a lucky dip in our case as we don’t pay much attention to names and celebrities; so for at least half of the ‘names’ here we didn’t have a clue who they were. But at least it’s a chance to see if anything has passed us by over the years that perhaps we should have paid more attention to.

A Welsh ‘food fair’ was set up in the castle grounds and people were doing what they do at food fairs; eating and sitting around in the sun.  Sir Peter Blake the Godfather of British Pop Art was also waiting for his ice cream cone.

Sir Peter Blake waiing for his Ice Cream!
Sir Peter Blake Waiting for his Ice Cream Cone at Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Ice Cream Stand

And later in the afternoon Robyn Hitchcock is enjoying his ice cream.

Robyn Hitchcock enjoys his Ice Cream and has a chat with Sir Peter Blake
Robyn Hitchcock enjoys his ice cream and has a chat with Sir Peter Blake

This is turning into a right celebrity ice cream festival; all we need now is John Cooper Clarke to eat an ice cream but he just seems to stick to chain smoking cigarettes. I presume that they must have run out of nicotine flavour.

Time to head off to our first event which was Tracey Thorn reading some of her book ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ and chatting about her life as a pop star. This was a weird one as I hadn’t a clue who she was until I heard her reading a serialisation of her book on the radio a few weeks ago; and very good is was too. Her reading of extracts from the book was just as humorous; she is obviously an intelligent woman who came through being a ‘pop star’ and rejoined the human race quite successfully. I’m not sure the same could be said of the ‘music journalist’ who subsequently chatted to her on stage and who didn’t seem to ask any questions that got to the heart of who Mrs Thorn was. That said it probably wasn’t helped by me not knowing anything about ‘Everything But The Girl’ or any of the records they ever made.

On reflection Tracey’s writing was very much in the style of the ‘late’ John Peel. Perhaps she’d make a great presenter of ‘Home Truths’ on Radio 4? It would certainly be better than the fairly dire replacement programme now on a Saturday morning; which causes me to hurl abuse at the radio and reach for the off button in the same manner as when ‘Thought for The Day’ appears. I’m digressing too much.

A quick mid afternoon sugar boost of cake was required back at the Food Fair before heading off to see someone else called Mark Watson. This was really a toss of a coin as the choice was him or someone called Caitlan Moran. Once again we hadn’t got a clue who either was but we did think that Mark Watson might be a comedian and thus possibly funny so the coin landed funny side up and off we went. Well he did turn out to be a comedian who also wrote books (he was reading from his book and trying to flog it) and yes he was quite amusing in that fast ‘smart arsed’ way that ‘comedians’ seem to perform these days. He is probably better as a comedian than a novelist from the bits I heard; and no I won’t be buying the book.

The afternoon was now passing and it was getting cold on the shady side of the street. It was time for the main event to see Robyn Hitchcock in the Congregational Church. This event unfortunately clashed with John Cooper Clarke who was on just across the road in another venue; but being more ageing hippies than ageing punk rebels it was Robyn we wanted to see – particularly as he can best be described as quirky or as other might say ‘as mad as a box of frogs’ (in the nicest possible way!). He played a gorgeous intimate set, accompanied by a rather fine cello player (the lady in the ice cream picture above) to around 50 or 60 people and a similar number of Welsh midges who had flown into the church for a warm on a cold night. Robyn is very much of that whimsical English singer song writer tradition  who very definitely ploughs his own furrow; who else sings lyrics like ‘I feel like a three-legged chinchilla, standing on a table so wide I can’t see over the side’? Contrary to most of the others here he wasn’t trying to flog his merchandise and very refreshing that was too. The midges also seemed to have a particular affinity for Peter Blake’s hair, which was also fascinating to watch and certainly made for quite a surreal evening.

How many other people have sat, in a Welsh chapel, by an ‘icon’ of the Pop Art movement watching a cloud of insects hop around his white hair whilst a quirky British eccentric sang ‘ River Man’ (written by another eccentric) in the wrong time signature? Evenings like this (mosquitoes excepted) don’t happen too often in our part of Wales.

So Sunday dawned, not quite so bright but still acceptable by Welsh weather standards and we headed back for the the last day of the festival. It has proved to be quite the best little festival we have ever been to in the U.K. and I hope it remains so and avoids the trap of  getting too big and accepting the money of corporate sponsors. Sunday couldn’t be any better could it?

Like most weekend festivals Sunday is a more chilled and relaxed affair. A time for recovering from any excesses the night before etc. So we decided to go along and see what Sir Peter had to say about Pop Art and ‘that’ Sergeant Pepper Cover.

Sir Peter Blake with His Painting of Himself with Badges
Sir Peter Blake at Laugharne with his painting ‘Self Portrait with Badges’ or my shot of ‘The Artist with Himself Looking Over his Shoulder’.

Now most art goes ‘whoosh’ over my head so this was an interesting hour or so as he chatted to Mark Ellen (remember him from the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’?). On the way in to the hall they had been selling some raffle tickets and Liz said she’d buy one to help support the festival. I suggested that she wait for the seller to come to her; as good fortune would be more likely to come to her (rather than go chasing it).  The event came to an end and the winning ticket was drawn……..drum roll…….ticket number 45…….yes we were the winners of a cartoon of Sir Peter Blake drawn by Martin Rowson of the Guardian and signed by Sir Peter. So now we have a Rowson and Blake on the Wall or at least we will have once it has been framed.

Edit: Since posting this Martin Rowson has kindly commented on the blog and explained how the cartoon came into being; which probably explains the bit above Sir Peter’s ear; which now turns out to be a portion of refried beans – not a carefully considered dash of the pen. I do wish we had gone to see Martin now as anyone who can write ‘Is God A Hedgehog‘ is O.K. by me.

Cartoon of Sir Peter Blake by Mark Rowson; signed by Sir Peter
Cartoon of Sir Peter Blake by Mark Rowson; signed by Sir Peter and Mark Rowson

We drove home in the weak sunshine asking each other if that weekend had really happened or did we just dream it?

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A Second (or perhaps third, fourth or fifth) Rate Country?

It has been a fair few months since I decided to let my thoughts spill into cyber space. Mostly because we’ve been too busy with the work on the house. But now we are back home it’s time to let rip. Actually I have been goaded from my usual inertia by receiving an email last night from some kind reader who actually said he agreed with most of my sentiments; not sure if I was more amazed that he agreed or that someone actually reads this drivel!

However, a pent up desire to hit the keyboard has been building for a day or two since reading this article written by Stephanie Flanders on the BBC website. In the article one of her friends said that London was ‘A first-rate city with a second-rate country attached’ (presumably one should infer that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are probably somewhere between third and fifth rate?).

I must of course overlook Stephanie’s obvious lack of good judgement in respect of her friends; this is a women who may well have shagged (as she dated them – reference Wikipedia) Ed Balls and Ed Milliband. That alone brings a whole new meaning to the sayings  ‘a political cock up’ and a ‘right balls up’.

However, I can’t overlook the crap in the rest of the article with such gems as ‘The Office for National Statistics reckons that the average Londoner contributes 70% more to Britain’s national income than people in the rest of the country’. Really? Now this peasant out here in his unfashionable and obviously dire, bleak part of Wales would like to present you sophisticated city types (and I’m not inferring that all Londoners are like this) with a few home truths.

Firstly London is only ‘wealthy’ (I’m using wealth here in it’s monetary sense as the article clearly seems to have missed the point that you don’t need money to be wealthy) because of the City of London and secondly because lots of rich people with ‘dodgy’ money moved their assets there to get them out of another country. This is aided and abetted by the fact that the centre of power is there and that the politicians, the powerful and the media ‘scratch each others backs’ (you got any thoughts on this Steph?). In the case of the former that money is not created but skimmed off the backs of other folks (mostly in the third world). In the case of the dodgy money that too has, in the main, been looted from other citizens in another country. In the case of the government they have stolen power from people outside of London and relocated it there.

Perhaps I should rephrase what Steph’s friend had to say and tell him how I see it; ‘A First Rate Country with a cess pit attached to it’. As most of the wealth there is not earned, but rather stolen from those who do ‘real work’. As far as I know actually creating something is the only way of creating economic wealth. Then again I don’t have a first class degree in Philosopy, Politics and Economics like Steph; which is kind of ironic as I warned my children about the dangers of it all coming ‘crashing down’ at the height of the boom. I still shudder at the memory of the smirking chancellor ‘Crash Gordon’ repeating his no more boom and bust speech every budget.

As I’ve said previously the City, London and all those people who live there feeling so superior because of their ‘good taste’ can only exist because of the hard work of good, honest everyday working folk. Where do think that delicious piece of rare lamb on your plate in a swanky London restaurant came from? It certainly wasn’t reared with dedication in some glass palace of an office where they have fast internet access and shift money uselessly around to take a percentage.

It was (for example) raised by some Welsh hill farmer who got up at some god forsaken hour in his unfashionable farm house (without nice furniture from John Lewis). He is lucky to have any internet connection because the private companies only want to ‘cherry pick’ the profitable, easy areas (thanks Maggie for selling off essential assets like BT, water and closing down the mines) in the cities. However, HIS community may of course have to have wind farms and pylons imposed on it to send electric power in the direction of London; because London needs it. Yep, it’s really essential that the advertising lights are kept on to sell even more worthless crap to keep profits high in the good old City of London.

He will probably have struggled through the snow these past few weeks to ensure that his animals got food, water and shelter because he cares deeply for them; something you should remember as you tuck into your delicious lamb, in ‘oh so fashionable’ Kensington.

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with a photo I took last week in our part of the world and remind you of a saying by someone far wiser than Stephanie’s friend.

‘When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money’

snow
Snow on the Hills in March last week here in Wales. Are you more wealthy walking up Oxford Street, buying more consumer crap or walking up here as free as a bird?
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Making Marmalade in a Slow Cooker Part 2

We spent today making marmalade again (You can read about our first attempt last year here.) If you are wondering how we did that now that Seville oranges are no longer in season; well we put some in the freezer in January (because we hadn’t moved back into the house during the building work).

This post is just an addendum to the original one as we tried a few changes to the original recipe (which is repeated below). The main changes are that we added 2 limes and a grapefruit  (skin and fruit), only used 1.7kg of sugar and that we put everything into the slow cooker the night before and left it on low over night. Which makes it a pretty simple way of making marmalade.

This resulted in a ‘sharper’ taste which we prefer, we did find that we had to boil for a longer time to get it to set. This could be down to the fact that the fruit was frozen before use and may have lost some of its pectin. Anyway here’s the original recipe (below) and you can try it with the changes if you want.

Home Made marmalade

Here is our marmalade recipe. Makes 6-8 jars
1 kg Seville oranges
1.7 litres near-boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
2 kg  sugar

Wash and scrub the oranges if you are obsessive; then cut them in half, squeeze the juice and keep it somewhere for later. Remove the membrane, pith and pips etc. with a spoon (you can slightly warm the cut oranges in a microwave if you want to make this easier) and tie all this up in a piece of muslin. Slice the orange peel into strips (removing as much pith as possible), chunks, or whatever you prefer.  The slices you cut at this point will determine the size of the shreds/chunks in the finished marmalade don’t feel you have to put it all in. We tend to put about two thirds of the rind in (this year I put all the rind in!).

Put the peel and the muslin bag full of pips and orange flesh in to the cooking pot of the slow cooker. Pour over the water and lemon juice. Cover and switch to high, leave for 6 hours. Alternatively we reckon that you could put it on low and leave it overnight – but we haven’t tried this yet.  The peel must be really soft before adding the sugar.

Remove the muslin bag and leave it until cool.  Squeeze the liquid from it into a large pan.  Add the rind and cooking liquid from the slow cooker and then add the sugar.  Finally pour over the orange juice you squeezed from the oranges earlier.  Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Put a plate in the freezer at this point to test the setting point later.

Bring to the boil and keep boiling rapidly for 15 minutes until the marmalade reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer.  If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can put a few drops of the liquid onto your frozen plate out of the freezer, and leave it for about a minute.  Push it along a bit with a finger.  If it leaves a ‘wrinkly track’ then it has reached the setting point – if not, keep boiling.

The setting point was a learning curve for us (and we don’t have a thermometer) but get it boiling gently. You don’t want a big ‘frothy’ boil – more of a point just beyond a simmer. For the first 15 minutes or so it will look a bit watery, as it gradually thickens it will become more viscous and you should have what other recipes describe as a ‘rolling boil’ (this is sort of how you imagine an Icelandic mud hole bubbling away). Keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Ours actually took about 30 minutes in total before the it left a ‘tacky track’ on the plate test.

Once the setting point has been reached, turn off the heat and skim off any scummy nastiness from the top.  Leave it all to cool for about 15 minutes.

Put your clean jars into the oven, at about 120°C so that they are sterilised and warm when the hot marmalade goes in later; alternatively get them hot (and dry) out of the dishwasher when it has finished.

Stir the marmalade to distribute the peel evenly, then ladle into the heated jars. Seal with waxed paper, clean and leave to cool with a cloth over the top.  When they have completely cooled, top with jam pot covers and lids and label. 

Store somewhere cool and dry and use within a year.

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Not So Grand Designs Part 5

The story of our property refurbishment and building 2 extensions has been documented in a very haphazard manner in various posts.

Part 1 Here
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here
Part 4 Here

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Sun Room from the Rear  Showing the Accoya cladding

The photo above shows the new sun-room from the back; the wood cladding is Accoya, a preserved timber, that is meant to last for 60 years and is very stable in wet weather. The gutters will be replaced with something more sympathetic when we get round to painting the rest of the house! You can just see the new solar hot water panels on the far roof of the house. The windows were supplied by the Danish company Rationel Windows.

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The Sun Room from the Front showing the Solarlux Bifold Doors

In view of the extreme weather in Wales we sourced the aluminium bifold doors from Solarlux in Germany.

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The New Entrance Porch with the new utility room behind

The new entrance into the new porch provides a storage area for coats and shoes etc. To the rear is the new utility room housing the boiler for the underfloor heating etc. There is an external log store.

kitchen
The New Kitchen fitted by Wade Furniture

Barry Wade of Wade Furniture, a local cabinet maker, made and fitted the new kitchen for us.

living_room
The Living area with Mezzanine above

The living area had to have sufficient space for our Quad ELS63 loudspeakers made by Quad hifi in 1963! The office area above is accessed by the new spiral stairs.

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Spiral Stairs with UFH Manifold

The Spiral Stairs were made by Woodside Joinery, Cwmbran. Their workmanship was first class. The underfloor heating manifold has yet to be ‘boxed in’ i.e. when John gets round to it!

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The view out of the Sun Room

The sun room with its views down the valley has proved to be John’s favourite room. It is a lovely light, airy room.

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The Sunroom with bookcases and one of John’s Photos

The sunroom also provides plenty of storage for our books.

bathroom
The ensuite bathroom

The new ensuite shower room has John’s niches in the wall for shampoo etc as he hates those wire basket things!

So there you have it 7 months of building work, a lot of expense but we have a lovely warm environmentally friendly house that we love. Now John just needs to get on with the outside!

 

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No So Grand Designs Part 4

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here

Happy New Year. Well it’s 2013 and the blog has suffered because we’ve been hunkered down for the cold weather in our temporary accommodation. The building work was meant to be finished by the end of November but has been delayed by the anhydrite screed not drying out fast enough. It was meant to take 60 days but has still been measuring around 12% moisture in places. It needs to be around 0.5% for tiling. However, after spending the Christmas break grinding off the top surface of the screed with a grinder it has started to dry quite quickly and we are hoping that the builders can start tiling the floors on their return after the New Year break.

The photos below are now out of date but show some of the progress since the last posting.

Water Services
The water services are installed, sleeved in conduit and you can see the start of the bathroom stud wall.
UFH1
The Underfloor Heating Pipes Come together at the Manifold Position
UFH2
The Underfloor Heating Pipes are Laid in 10 Zones on Celotex Insulation; with Perimeter Insulation
screed
The Anhydrite Screed is Pumped in to Cover the UFH Pipes, note the ‘tripods’ that are Positioned Before with a Laser Level.
Bathroom Partition
Bathroom partition is in place with lots of sockets for the Hi-Fi and TV!
Shower Wall with recesses
Shower Wall ready for tiling with John’s patented bottle recesses
Sunroom Window
Sunroom Window in position
Kitchen
Kitchen leading through to the sunroom, awaiting plastering.

Part 5 is here

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No So Grand Designs Part 3

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

By the beginning of August 2012 the concrete has been poured into the footings, the below ground block work done, the slab poured and block work is starting to rise above ground.

The blockwork to the utility room and porch starts to go up
The block work to the utility room and porch starts to go up
The sun room also starts to rise from the ground.
The sun room also starts to rise from the ground; note the 80mm of insulation.
New drain runs for surface and foul water
New drain runs are installed for surface and foul water.

Meanwhile inside the original bathroom floor for some inexplicable reason was finished above the height of the bedroom floor. This means that the bathroom floor needs to be broken up to lay a new slab at the correct height. It turns out to be fortuitous as the subfloor is full of water from a leaking pipe.

Meanwhile inside we 'Kango' up the bathroom floor
Meanwhile inside we ‘Kango’ up the bathroom floor and deposit the concrete in what was our bedroom. Note the new steel joist.
Roof Construction
The Roof to the Sunroom Starts to Take Shape

Part 4 is Here

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