As part of the "Lady of Leisure" regime I'm trying to keep the cake and biscuit tins topped up with home mad goodies. So far it's been fairly painless - though some cakes do seem to disappear far too quickly. But today's baking session descended into chaos. Not one to do things by halves I mixed a big bowl of plain cake mixture and used some of it to fill two sandwich tins. I added cocoa powder to the rest and filled thirty cake cases. So far so good and only a slight darkening on one side of the sandwich cakes. Opting for a simple finish I decided to decorate the chocolate cakes with glace icing and chocolate "sprinkles". Last week I tidied up the food cupboard and decanted packets of dried goods into rows of neat plastic containers. Some looked rather similar, so I labelled. But some were easily identifiable(!). I painstakingly sieved icing sugar into a bowl and added warm water. It took up much more than I was expecting and suddenly formed a rock solid lump. Not icing sugar, but cornflour. Clean bowl, more sieving - this time with the correct sweet white powder. I then added the water - but in the same quantity I'd used for the wrong version. Result - a bowl of opaque sweet liquid. Threw in the rest of the icing sugar lumps and all, beat vigorously and dolloped on the cakes. Shook the sprinkles over as the icing dripped through the cooling rack onto the table. Hopefully they will taste better than they look. All I have to do now is scrub the table and fill the sandwich cakes (it will have to be just jam as I have unsurprisingly run out of icing sugar for butter cream)
Now that we've sort of got the settings right (we think) on the camera, Henry took it down the fields and fixed it on the beck rail, pointing hopefully to where the kingfisher is seen. Everyone in the family has seen the kingfisher (or kingfishers) - everyone but me. I know I'm not down there very often, but I've never even had a glimpse. So, part of the reason for getting the camera was to catch it on film.
Well, at least the camera works, and we've now got some photographs of birds instead of cats. But ducks, dippers and pigeons are not kingfishers. Maybe next time.
Just a warning - our weather site may not always be up to date. Over the past week the data has been sticking somewhere between the weather console and the PC, and while it is still updating the website, the data isn't changing and appears to be flatlining. Stop/starting the programme usually kick starts it, but having had to do it twice already today I decided to switch the the Hot Spare computer (as setup and tested last week - see post). The only thing to do was do connect the weather console to the laptop's serial port. Slight problem - wrong sex. Both connections were female, so I need a Gender Changer. I looked on one website and found what I wanted (9 pin M/M) for £2.01, but when I clicked on the basket, the postage was £6.26! So over to good old Amazon - £1.19 and free delivery.
So until arrives next week we're back on the old PC and trying to spot it freezing.
On and off over the past few weeks we've been experimenting with one of by birthday presents - a camera that is triggered by movement and can be set to take photos or videos, day or night. At last we seem to have got the settings almost right - and this afternoon when we left it in James' garden we captured this picture of wildlife -
We wondered why there was a distinct lack of birds (only two pictures) - then saw the ten pictures of the other wildlife -
Looking back, some of my last posts seem to have very little to do with farming, but rest assured farming is always with us. Some days nothing out of the ordinary happens - we (or rather Henry and James) get up early, milk and muck out, and feed the milking cows. Then it's in for breakfast and back out again to feed the young stock and dry cows. If there's nothing untoward they may have time for some other work before dinner. This week they've been replacing gate stoups and hanging wooden gates in some of the gateways that were used by National Grid when they came through a couple of years ago. If you're driving along the road, glance towards the hedges to see how good they look. We've also had meetings with our new bank manager ("the bank is supporting agriculture for the long term") and Friends of the Lake District who will be holding their annual Hedge Laying Competition at Strickley on 5th February. We've sent some cows off on their final journey (nothing lives for ever) and got up in the night to check calving cows (well, by "we" I mean Henry). And every day about half past three, it all starts again - milking and feeding etc. Followed by a final check of the stock just before we go to bed.
If you've been looking at our Weather Page you'll have seen the amount of rain we had over the weekend - especially Saturday. The slurry pit has been getting fuller over he past weeks (it's got to go somewhere!) and the rain pouring in from the skies and running down from the yard meant action had to be taken. So since first thing this morning the tractor and slurry tanker have been whizzing through the yard on their way to spread a bit of organic goodness on the fields.
Wood burning stoves seem to be fashionable features these days, but I suspect that many of them are not the only source of heating. But here at Strickley if we don't light the stove we are a bit cold. The Aga takes the chill off the kitchen (especially when the room has been closed up all night), but is no way a substitute for proper heating. We have the largest stove we could find, and over these past weeks of record low temperatures,it has been keeping the house warm. Our "central heating" is to open the hall door and let the heat spread through the house. But we have used a lot of wood lately. James also has a wood burning stove (in fact he has two) so our supplies were running low. They were boosted last year when a Hornbeam fell down at Over Bleaze and Henry and James helped saw it up, but what seemed like a huge wood pile has dwindled away. So this past week we have been busy with replenishing it. In 2006 a storm swept through Strickley and brought down several trees in the wood. The wood is mainly oak, but with plenty of other varieties. So we now have a supply of logs from Oak, Elder, Silver Birch, Spruce and Copper Beech, plus some Hazel that we are coppicing. As I look out of the window at the wind and rain beating against the glass, I'm very glad of the effort taken to keep us warm.
In early December the computer in our office came very close to a one-way trip to the tip. We were lucky that Leon managed to bring it back to life, and it is now running as before. But it was a bit of a wake up call for us. I've always been meticulous in backing up data regularly to either another PC or an external hard drive (or even to both), but this scare made me think about the difficulties I would have it I had to move to another computer. So, in the middle of the night when I wake up and my brain jolts into gear, I've been planning a Disaster Recovery Strategy. I wanted something that could be kept up to date and implemented painlessly.
The office computer does three main jobs - 1 - connects to the console that wirelessly connects to the weather station, processes the data, and updates our Internet weather page every 15 minutes. 2 - stores the local version of our main website, (which we edit on that computer) and updates any changes on the web server. 3 - runs ImpelPro , our herd management software, which is downloaded to the milk recorders laptop, and updated from NMR's website
All three present challenges in preparing for, or avoiding disaster.
But as I've nothing urgent to do now, being a Lady of Leisure (!), I've spent some time sorting out the issues. And, in no particular order, here's how.
The office and kitchen PC's are on the same network, so transferring files is easy.
2 - I copied all the web stuff to the kitchen PC and checked that I could edit it. For many years I've been using CuteFTP to transfer files, so I dug out the disk to install on the PC. But things have moved on and it didn't like Windows 7. So I found another free programme (SmartFTP), downloaded and installed it. I set up the web server using the same settings and passwords etc as before and checked that I could upload changes. (You may, or may not, have noticed a small change to the News section)
3 - I contacted NMR and discussed the procedure to move to another computer. When the disk with the latest version of the software arrived I installed it, downloaded our data from the website and copied the database from the old computer. We've given it a thorough check and it's working perfectly. The only fly in the ointment will be when we prepare the data for the milk recorder. Their laptops are old and sturdy and use a floppy drive, rather than USB pen etc. But I have an external USB floppy drive, so that shouldn't be a problem
1 - the weather. This will stay running on the current computer for as long as possible (the other two programmes have moved for good), but I wanted to be able to switch to the backup plan without any hassle. Luckily I have an old laptop (remember - never throw anything away). With the wonders of the internet I found an artilce on how to move Weather Display (and more importantly keep all the settings, configuations and history). So this morning I have been copying, configuring, changing registry settings etc and after downloading the latest version of the software, got a Hot Spare to store in the Box Room.. It even updates our weather page if switched on (if you didn't blink about one o' clock you would have seen a slightly different looking weather page).
I would like to think that having done all this "it will never happen" - but I'm now prepared, with a warm glow from a job well done.
This is the latest update from Bill and Margaret in Australia (received last night - Linda and Pauline live in Brisbane).
Thank you all for you concern, everyone is safe, however (it's 7.00am here ) both Linda and Pauline's houses are due to be inundated this afternoon. Pauline's house is rented while they're overseas and is someone else's immediate concern. Linda and Claude spent yesterday moving gear out and a truck is to be there this morning to shift furniture. Hopefully they'll get most moveable furniture out before the water level cuts them off later this afternoon. We are still in North Queensland and can only look on, and feel a bit helpless. The big dam built to prevent such a flood in Brisbane is at about 190% capacity and cannot hold back the flood, they have to release water to keep the level under 200%.
Many years ago there were two little boys who supported two different football teams, so they had different duvet covers on their beds. Time moved on and the little boys grew up and left home. I tried to get them to take the duvet covers, but they scoffed at such childlike ideas. So, thinking "they'll come in useful one day", I put the covers in the bedding chest.
Tonight two different little boys are coming to stay (while their parents live it up at a party). Two little boys who support two different football teams. So the beds are ready for them - both red and white, but with one team doing a bit better than the other.
As you maybe know we have cousins in Queensland and we have been thinking of them as we watched the reports of flooding on the television. This is an email we had yesterday from Bill and Margaret.
Happy New Year to the Strickley clan. Thank you for your concern, we as a family have not been affected but the devastation has been widespread. We are in north Queensland where the rain has been heavy but it is expected here this time of year. Linda and Claude and family are here for the festive season so all the Australian family are together. We had five and a half inches of rain Christmas eve and were cut off by flood waters for Christmas day but worse we lost power for all of the day and Boxing day, t'was a bit hard keeping the drinks cool with the temp at 33 celsius! In our old farm area they have been cut off by flood water for two weeks and I suspect about the same time without power, with no chance of a milk tanker accessing the farms so those who can milk will be running it down the drain. The marina where our boat would have been had it been in the water is safe but the marina further up the river in Bundaberg was completely destroyed and we understand all the yachts, about 70 were lost. State wide the overall damage to roads, crops, livestock, housing and general infrastructure is so far uncalculated as it's not over yet but will be in billions.