July 2013


aussie knot

This is a funny little knot.

I’ve no idea what its real name is. There will be at least two. All knots have a minimum of two names. It’s a bit like (but isn’t) a half-hitch I’ve decided after looking in a book I’ve got.

I have called it the Aussie Noose because I noticed at the weekend when I was desperately flicking through the TV channels for something to watch and I came to a programme where someone had been hung in Australia 100 years ago. I was about to flick on when I noticed the rope. It was tied in what didn’t look like a noose and was, I thought, just a loop that someone had tied just to give the semblance of one. To me it looked like a Granny Knot.

Being mildly obsessed by knots at the moment I made a quick sketch of it, before carrying on channel-hopping. Later I picked up a piece of string and tried reconstructing it. Luckily it had been tied rather loosely on telly, as captured in my sketch, and I was able to do so fairly easily.

It’s a simple knot and, (I was surprised to discover) is a slip-knot, so could function as a noose. But probably not one that’s easy to get off afterwards. As you will see it’s based on a simple overhand knot. Then the free end is looped around the other and tucked back under itself. It’s then simply a matter of pulling on all four strands (A, B, C, D) that exit the knot, to tighten it.

This is by way of an update of a blog post from January. Back then I wrote of my discovery of hay boxes which I had read were “a first class method of preparing porridge overnight”. Recently thanks to a great post on the Selfsufficientish pages, I have discovered that they are more than this and can be used to actually cook food – something of a low tech, low cost, slow cooker. It also showed how to make one – or rather a modern day equivalent.

At the moment I’m looking for Summer Holiday projects to undertake with Little Boots and this looks like a potential candidate. It would be a good thing for camping. You could knock up a hearty stew or something first thing and then go out for the whole day knowing a deliciously slow cooked meal would be ready to be dished up when you got back to camp. The only thing that puts me off from a personal perspective is that we haven’t the space in the packed car for a box of tissues when we go camping, much less a bulky haybox. That said for day trips it does feel like a way of taking a sizeable hot meal with you in the boot of the car.

Definitely something to think about. The source of my earlier info on the hay box was Camping For All by Jack Cox. Since then I’ve picked up another of his books, Camp and Trek. This book is, according to the preface, a companion volume to The Outdoor Book, which if I get hold of a copy makes three, which is dangerously close to a collection and before you know it I’ll be adding Ideas for Rover Scouts and Ideas for Scout Troops to my shelves.

camptrek

First published in 1956 Camp and Trek has a sterling sounding list of advisors including Ronald English (cycling), Percy Blandford (canoeing), and Showell Styles (climbing), not to mention the rather wonderfully named Moira Savonius on “seeking food from Nature’s larder.”

What is interesting is how the concern about what I call artificial entertainments were as alive sixty years ago as they are today.

Myself, I worry about the amount of time spent on the computer and it’s ilk (Wii and Nintendo DS) along with the Sky kids’ channels.

In those pre-telly days the concerns were “the hypnotic screen, and the bewildering fantasy of the strip cartoon and superficial entertainment.”

The book is surprisingly unstuffy in attitude “Good camping is never bounded by convention.”, but it does then say things that we would not see as good practice today, such as taking “a minimum of liquid” with you for the day. These days I think the common sense attitude is to take plenty and more than you think you’ll need. Some of the food suggestions also jar with modern sensibilities such as “beef, lettuce and dripping sandwiches”. Beef and lettuce, yes, but with horseradish surely?, not with lard. Other bits like suggestions on how to make a shelter or support tents using bicycles seem to be somewhere on the road to bonkers.

Nevertheless the book does contain some interesting stuff. But there’s no way we will be cooking Tripe A La Catalana when we go camping in a few weeks.

fire

With the open fire eventually decommissioned for the summer it was time to do something about the empty grate. Somehow it makes the room seem cold. Not in a cooling way that might be desirable in this heat wave, but rather in a slightly desolate, abandoned way.

Usually I just fill it with some logs, but this year not only was the log pile depleted because we had fires much later in the year, but also those left were large and rather irregularly shaped which meant that they were hopeless for stacking.

So, the Sunday before last, I thought I’d use some cut branches that I had in the garden. This should only take half an hour I said to myself. Using a mix of Ash, Sycamore, Beech and Apple it ended up taking me nearly two hours (in the hot sun). No wonder really as there are at least 150 pieces. What has surprised me is that, even though most of the branches were cut some time ago, there has been quite a bit of shrinkage. Initially it was a snug fit, but you’ll notice quite a gap in this photo taken a week later. I’m going to have to cut some more – this could be a theme for the summer

Next year I think I’ll stockpile some bigger round pieces towards the end of the log burning season.

Wednesday was an odd day in one respect.

Dead moths.

Walking to the train station I saw a dead moth on the pavement. It was huge, but that didn’t surprise me particularly, I knew it was some kind of Hawk moth and we see a fair few hereabouts. Hummingbird Hawk Moths are regular sightings in the garden (except when the summer is rotten like last year) and I have seen the impressive caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk Moth a couple of times. The best occasion was when a pet cat had found one and was completely freaked out by the thing waving its “trunk” at him. The dusky pink body on the pavement was, I later looked up, an adult Elephant Hawk Moth and I was still marvelling at its size when I reached the station.

As I walked down the platform rooting around in my rucksack for my book I noticed what I took to be a sweet wrapper on the tarmac ahead of me. Growing nearer I realised that it was not litter. It was another moth (again dead I’m afraid) and it was stunning. Immediately I put my bag and book down to take a photo.

tiger 2

Squatting on my haunches I marvelled for several minutes at this beauty. Stone dead, but somehow still full of life. Later I used my photo to look it up and discovered that it was a Scarlet Tiger Moth.

tiger 1

A wild, beautiful name befitting such a shamelessly exuberant looking creature. But how I had never seen one before? It’s not the sort of thing you could fail to notice. Putting aside short-sightedness and stupidity on my part (both possible) there was only one answer I could find, which was that because it was one of the moths that fly in the daytime any I’d seen before had seemed like butterflies (Red Admirals?).

I will pay closer attention in future – I wouldn’t want to miss a live one.