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Archive for the ‘Vicarage’ Category

The Vicar bought some chimney brushes last year. We’ve found it a very cost-effective way of  ensuring that we don’t fill the living room with smoke too much. I think the set cost about £30, which is already less than we’d pay to get a sweep in. Our chimneys are quite easy to sweep as everything is contained in the woodburning stove box when it descends, although the house is three storeys, so we had to get extra rods to reach the top. Everything keeps clean as long as black bin liners are judiciously applied. Here’s the happy Vicar in his sweeping kit, displaying some of the soot, which shows up very nicely on his peely-wally Scottish hands:

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The Vicarage is cold. My feet are numb as I type this at lunchtime as bright Autumn sunshine streams through the windows but fails to warm anything in the house. I have many different techniques for keeping warm – lighting the woodburning stoves, feather lined slippers (not currently on my feet – hence the chilly toes) and gilets amongst them. But the daily essential (even in the summer, I’m sad to say) is a scarf.

The other day I caught this video which gives 25 different options for tying a scarf. I hadn’t realised there were so many. I think I wear a variation on the Basic Loop. How about you?

[HT India Knight]

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The other week the Engineer’s godmother, Song, invited the Vicar and I to join her at David Austin Roses on the Vicar’s day off. We enjoyed our visit very much – they have gardens full of beautiful fragrant roses and a great tearoom. And more than that, Song went away with a lovely pink rose to cover a bank by her house and we came home with three rambling roses for our garden wall. We decided we could use them to deter coping stone thieves and nosey kids who like to peek over the wall. And they’ll look fabulous and smell delightful.

The Vicar has planted two roses by the back garden wall, with wooden posts and connecting wires, and another by the front door. Now we just need to get our plants to grow and bloom like this one. What do I need to know?

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I found an impressive mushroom on our lawn yesterday and was wondering about eating it. I was under the misapprehension that there were only a few types of poisonous ones and it was likely to be fine.

Then I went googling and searching around the internet and it’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. So we’ve not eaten it – it’s sitting in my kitchen but I think it will just be going in the compost. I think I’m best to stick to the radishes and salad leaves I planted myself.

Bit of a pity, but best not to poison the family, eh?

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Well, a small one, anyway. Last year we bought some very cheap strawberry plants and stuck them in a flower bed where they failed to produce anything edible. This year, however, they have given us some sweet strawberries – a whole (small) bowlful. And we’ve been able to pick them at peak ripeness. Delicious. Please excuse the shocking lack of focus in the picture. The one I took using the flash made the strawberries look purple.

We also have some small and very sour cherries, about five radishes, a handful of gooseberries, some spindly rhubarb and some snail-chewed bok choi. And there will definitely be potatoes. It’s better than last year, and if our gardening continues to improve at this rate I reckon that we might have a good harvest by the time the Engineer leaves home (he’s six btw).

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Good news: the slow wheels of insurance, diocesan tender bidding and the sourcing of reclaimed stones have turned and this week we have a hard-working builder in our garden. He is repairing the wall that was stripped of its coping stones by an early morning thief back in October.

Interestingly, sourcing the stones was a bit of a challenge – they couldn’t find enough stones of the right dimensions. Then the builders came across a rather quirky local reclamation yard. The yard wanted to be paid only in cash and wouldn’t invoice the builders in the normal way of companies.

Recently I saw one of the millions of reality police shows on telly, about the team tracking down metal thieves, who found BT and Network Rail cabling in a yard. But only because it was labelled as such. How does a reclamation yard check the origins of the reclaimed items they buy? Noone labels their bricks or paving slabs. What chance that the coping stones going back on our wall came from there in the first place? Not entirely unlikely I’d hazard.

We’re hoping to keep these stones and thankfully, those laid last night stayed there until the mortar had set so they’ll be much more difficult to remove than the ones we lost. Our wall rebuilder told us of another vicar he has done some work for. This chap was so fed up of coping stones being stolen from his wall that he got the builders to take a grinder to them, defacing them so that they wouldn’t be worth anything at a reclamation yard. I have to say, we are seriously considering that option now, to save us from any possible future stolen-coping-stones hassle.

Our wall, the new stones and a well-deserved coffee break

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Despite my desire to become Alys Fowler (including the Pre-Raphaelite hair), things in the Vicarage garden didn’t go brilliantly last summer. I planted out, but didn’t really give things the attention they needed. I was too busy fire-fighting the clutter in the house.

But this year I’m hoping for more success. I now have a cleaner, who comes every couple of weeks to help me to conquer the house. I have a schedule, which means I am strangely (to me) doing a little more housework than I used to. So there may now be some time to water and weed.

And to start us off, last week we had the gardening team from Betel in to clear the beds and get us on the road to a manageable and (hopefully) edible garden this year. The team comprised four men – one was Gav Burnage, Associate minister from Aldridge Parish Church, who is living and working full time at Betel. The other guys were members of the Betel community in Birmingham, learning to live and work free from substance abuse.

God was kind to us, and the sun shone. The Vicar and Rocky joined the Betel team. I skived off the digging, but supplied regular tea and cake. They sorted out our main beds, nuked some brambles and the evil blue weeds and left everything looking tidy and ready for planting. Now we just have to keep up the weed-free look with regular forays in our wellies. The money we paid for the work helps to pay for Betel’s accommodation and keeps this amazing organisation going. If you live in the Birmingham area and need a garden blitz, why not see if they can help you out?

 

The Vicar with the Betel team. Note the tidy flower bed (and still-absent coping stones).

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I’ve just been enjoying some early Spring views from my kitchen window as the sun sets on a surprisingly balmy February day. First there was the cheering sight of the robin hopping about around the bird table that the Vicar was given for Christmas. He doesn’t seem to mind all the clutter out there in the yard.

The yard is also where the Vicar was then chopping logs in a manly way to prepare the wood for our fires for next winter. We’ve had a good haul of wood over the last few weeks, mainly due to some serious redevelopment going on in our town centre. They’ve been chopping a good few trees down and have left the wood out for the hunter-gatherer tribe, of which the Vicar is an enthusiastic member.

Watching the Vicar chop logs reminds me of Almost, who we’ve not seen for a few weeks now. Almost is from Kosovo and is once again trying to get leave to remain in the UK. Almost tells us that his 3 brothers got permission some years ago but he had to return to Kosovo with his wife and family. His wife was taken ill  (with a stroke) on the way back and died recently. So he is back here trying again. He is living in cramped conditions and occasionally comes to ask if we’ll pay him for some work or for help with his gas or electric.

When Almost was last here, the Vicar was log-chopping and was then clearing up the prepared wood before he was able to take Almost to the Post Office to top up his gas card. As he does with most visiting able-bodied men, the Vicar offered Almost a go of the axe. And although Almost is much slighter than the Vicar, his axe skills were far more impressive. We asked him if he’d chopped wood before, back in Kosovo.

Ah. Too many, too many.

I wonder if our boys will grow up with great axe skills but sighing about having to chop too many, too many.

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Following up from watching lots of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in the form of flash mob YouTube clips over the last couple of weeks, the Vicar nabbed a couple of Messiah clips to encourage folk in church this Sunday. Here is the one that’s not the Hallelujah Chorus – For Unto Us a Child is Born, set to kinetic typography, which helps you to meditate on the words as well as the marvellous music.

Happy Monday. Ours will be mainly spent phoning plumbers (frozen and burst pipes around the Vicarage) and sourcing extra warmth in the form of memory foam topper and electric blanket for Rocky the Vicar’s Apprentice, who has been so cold in the attic that his asthma has been playing up. He sees this as a part of his training for future ministry…

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Well, that’s made for a great Saturday. The Vicar was outside chatting with a kind neighbour who has been repairing our Victorian garden wall. The neighbour remarked that he’d have to get on with putting the coping stones back on the top. He’d seen that the stones had disappeared a couple of days ago and had assumed that the Vicar had taken them off since they were loose. Alas not. Someone has been and taken them! So now about half our wall looks strangely naked.

So if anyone offers you a load of cheap Staffordshire blue coping stones, let me know. At £40/m, we reckon they’ve stolen about a thousand pounds worth.

Just a small section of our poor wall

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