Archive for September, 2008

We finally finished cutting wheat here on the 24th.   It was all sprouty in the head, and the old combine did not like it much as the chain on the unloading auger mechanism split apart with a spectacular bang.    One new chain, new bearing and a lot of pushing and shoving to clear out the hard packed wheat inside, and we were ready to go for the big finish.   

The combine is now finally back in its shed for another year and the straw is all baled.   The grain drier is working overtime for a neighbouring farmer who is still busy trying to get finished.   

And I heard that the price of wheat has fallen to below £100 a tonne for the first time in a while.    Last year, I got £150 for mine, so it is a bit disappointing, particularly given the massive increases in fuel and fertilizer.

At least we were able to salvage enough of the harvest to make some sense of things – other areas were worse than here.

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I really enjoyed the opening concert from the BBC Scottish Symphony on BBC2 Scotland last night, broadcast live from Glasgow.    There were a few patchy moments, and we could not hear Karen Cargill very well, but I wish we could have more coverage like this.  

Last year, the BBC covered this concert where The Planets was performed.    I criticised the poor sound and camera work, and lack of a presenter at the end.    Happily, this time the technical presentation was a huge improvement, and at the end we were told who had been singing (well done to all the choirs) and what was up and coming for the BBC Scottish. 

Glasgow has just been awarded a City of Music award by UNESCO joining Seville and Bologna as the only European cities with that accolade.    Perhaps more television coverage of the diverse musical performances going on in Glasgow could help celebrate this achievement.

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Photo - Dundee Rep.

For their first big show this season, Dundee Rep have chosen Mother Courage.    And at three hours, it was a big show indeed.     

There was a lot to like and admire.    Central to the whole and onstage for most of the time, Ann Louise Ross gave a worthy and powerful account of Mother Courage, and was very ably supported by a hard-working and multi-tasking cast.     There was specially commissioned new music by John Ross, and played live by a band on stage, although not all the numbers worked well.     Dundee Rep brings in new actors to their ensemble under the graduate training scheme, so newcomer Gemma McElhinney (pictured here with Ann Louise Ross) played the tricky role of the dumb Katrin with a notable performance.      The storytelling came over clearly, and the singing was good – Dundee does ‘ensemble’ very well.    Naomi Wilkinson’s simple grey metal set and snowdrifts with a revolve, lit by Tina McHugh was effective.

So why was this a bit disappointing?    This is an anti-war play which, given where we are with Iraq and Afghanistan, could not be more topical.      The story we were so ably being told just did not make enough connection.     Mother Courage feeds off the war, and sacrifices her children because of it.     The production by Gerry Mulgrew simply was not angry or bitter enough to be as hard hitting as a performance of this Brecht could and should really be.      Perhaps the translation by John Willett used did not help.   While there was, as expected,  plenty of shouting and soldiers and peasants stompting about in boots, there were few tears.    Perhaps there could have been more if this Mother Courage had been played a tad less unsentimentally, and Robert Paterson’s cook had not been so likeable.    And the big song at the end should have been sung with the actors right in front of the audience instead of across the back of the set.

It was certainly well worth seeing – just don’t expect to be as angry as you really should be by the end.

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I needed cheering up today as it is raining once again, and the crops look more sodden than ever.    So I went up to Buchanty Spout to see if there were any salmon heading back up the river Almond.


Buchanty is a rocky place where the river Almond narrows into a steep and fast-flowing waterfall.    Given August’s record rainfall, and little dry weather this month, there was a huge amount of water coming down.

And there were quite a few salmon doing their best to leap the waterfall to try to get upstream.    Some were managing, others were struggling.    It was thrilling to watch.   And although the path to the river had clearly seen some use, I was the only person there.

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School Exchange

Over the years, our children have taken part in a school activity involving a school exchange, and we have offered accommodation to visiting pupils.    We have hosted netball players from Australia, two lots of musicians from Munich and rugby players from Canada.    It has all been good and positive, and we have enjoyed being part of the exchange experience.

We are due to host a musician in October.    This time, our school has gone way over the top and issued child protection guidelines (which is basic common sense), and also a guide to what to do if your visiting child discloses information to you.    Pages and pages of it.

Oh my goodness.    Something simple is suddenly becoming too difficult.     Was there really a problem needing fixed here?

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No we are (er, almost) Two

I have been blogging for almost two years now.    Blog anniversaries raise the question:  do I keep going with this, or is it time to do something else?    Or change the focus?

Well, for better or worse, Bluedog is here for a while yet, but marking the date with a slightly different look.

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Harvest Progress 2

This is turning into a particularly tricky year, because we are not getting much in the way of rain-free days required to work combine harvesters.

Winter Oats and Spring Barley are all cut, leaving wheat to do.    But wheat soaks up rain like weetabix soak up milk in the mornings, and it normally takes a whole good drying day before you can think about cutting wheat.    But one field down, and yesterday we started at 7pm with wheat at 24% moisture and cut until 10pm when it started raining again.   It is very frustrating, and expensive as wheat has to be dried to below 15% moisture.

Other areas of the UK are fully worse, with Northumberland being a particular blackspot.    Farmers Weekly has a UK harvest roundup  www.fwi.co.uk and loads of pictures like this one of a very submerged round baler (2/3 is underwater):

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Picking Brambles

Peter Rabbit famously bunked off family bramble picking to visit the delights of Mr MacGregor’s garden, and ended up being put to bed with camomile tea while everyone else ate fresh blackberries for their supper.

Ever since I can remember, I have picked brambles every autumn.    There is something wonderful about the big black shiny fruits which are so packed with flavour, and something challenging about struggling through jaggy thickets to reach the biggest juiciest berries.

We do cheat a bit these days, because we have trained a bramble along a wall in our garden, and get most of what we need from there.    But I do try and get along a hedgerow or two as well.    For old time’s sake.

But only this month of course, as anyone knows who has tried to eat brambles next month:   the devil spits on them in October.

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Freeview Boxes

Freeview boxes continue to be the most unreliable piece of kit in the house.    

So far:     1 Nokia, 1 Phillips and 3 Daewoo set top boxes have all died within 2 years.   And last night my Matsui DTR3 also died.    Under two years old.    It blew its fuse, and looking inside, it also melted a component on the circuit board, which could have caused a fire.     You can’t turn these things off.

I suppose at around £25, it is clearly designed to be replaced after its life.    But 2 years is a disappointingly short life expectancy for something with no moving parts.   

 Transistor radios go on for ever, so why not set-top boxes?   I blame the manufacturers for not testing the plastic boxes these things are housed in.    I will be adding ventilation holes when the replacement arrives today.

Interestingly, my DAB radio has a tiny cooling fan inside.

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Combine Harvesters

On Flickr, this is the “most interesting” picture of a combine:






And this is the “least interesting”:







Who gets to decide on these things?   I think that the least interesting one looks more reliable, but the red/green mix of the interesting combine is intriguing in its way.

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