The Pig Yard

August 10 - We expect August to be the best month of the year for weather but either our memories are poor or there is a gradual change in the British weather. It was a month of extremes with the latter half turning wet and windy. Our lives remain busy even if some of the activities are quite mundane. Work gets in the way of Jane's life but she wishes to continue for at least another couple of years. Steve's has had the results from his check up after his health scare of last month and it seems that everything is alright in terms of his arteries but his GP still thinks it was an Amaurosis Fugax and therefore Steve is now booked into to see an Ophthalmologist in September.

With our sponsored cycle coming up at the end of September we spent as much time as possible out on our bikes clocking up the miles. So far we've managed to cycle 33 miles in one trip (no it wasn't non stop) and we aim to manage 40 miles before we undertake the real thing on Sunday 26th September. If you would like to sponsor us just click here. We're only 25% towards raising our target of £500 so we need everyone's support.

At long Last we've set up a blog site for our visitors so to have your say - click here

iPhone screen

iPhones in our lives

Since we got our iPhones we have developed our skills to get more and more from them until we have gotten to the point we would find it difficult to survive without them.

We each have a different approach - Jane uses hers far more for texting, phone calls and monitoring her emails. She is more likely to be downloading amusing Apps rather than something that is going to manage her time.

Steve uses his more as a computer than a communicator. He has downloaded Apps to manage his life and he uses the Calendar like a diary of activities and events. His favourite App is Errands because it keeps a record of everything he needs to do from filling up the bird feeders every week, weekly cleaning all the way through to arranging the MOTs for the cars. He manages his whole life around this App (quite worrying).

There are many other Apps that we both use: camera; timer; alarm clock; Google maps; Met Office weather; trainline; RAC traffic; and the list continues to grow.

There isn't a month goes by when we don't add to our list of Apps and it's difficult to remember what life was like before we got our iPhones. If you have any favourite Apps please let us know what they are and why they are your favourite - just make mention of them on the Pig Yard Blog.

Garden Produce

We have managed to get some reasonable produce from our vegetable plot. The weather hasn't helped us because our initial sowings of many seeds withered in the greenhouse whilst we were away one very hot weekend early in May when we were in Greece. Then we had a very dry spell in late June, early July that affected the courgettes and broccoli because we didn't water them enough. Despite all of this we have some delicious cucumbers, reasonable courgettes and small, very sweet tomatoes.

Our greatest success are the figs. We cannot take any of the credit for this because the fig tree we planted nearly ten years ago just grows. Perhaps where we sited it makes all the difference - next to the house on a south facing wall in the stone of the drive which has very little soil. This month we have picked numerous figs but it has been a battle with the wasps who have taken a liking to the sweet juice and will burrow through the soft skin to gorge themselves until they are almost drunk with it. At this point it can be quite risky to be picking the fruits as one never knows what might be lurking inside.

Fresh produce from our garden

Nectarine on our tree

Nectarines in England

Our nectarine tree is rather a pathetic plant that has sat in a very large pot alongside the gardening barn for several years and has become bent over and clinging onto life however this year it produced a wonderful looking fruit. We have been nurturing it for many weeks now and towards the end of the month Jane had to pick it because despite it being firmly attached by its stalk it was beginning to rot on the plant.

The style of it giving fruit has been very much in line with its total existence - clinging to the edge of life, looking particularly unattractive and then coming to nothing. There are some people like this.

Not Sailing

As previously recorded we had every intention of getting involved with sailing as a replacement activity to our involvement in hot air ballooning. The holiday in Greece in May was not a great success partly due to the inclement weather and our attempts to take the second part of the Royal Yachting Association course in dinghy sailing was proving difficult due to the barriers placed by both Hollowell Sailing Club (impossible to contact) and Northampton Sailing Club, Pitsford  (unjustifiable costs). We started to doubt whether we really wanted to sail.

We went as far as buying our wet suits as pictured and had great fun trying to get into them which caused us to become amateur contortionists until we took advice on the best way of putting them on starting at the feet and easing your way in little by little. Once suited up we looked quite the part.

However one night Steve had a sleepless time thinking about whether he really wanted to do this or was this a knee jerk reaction to not ballooning. We wouldn't have wanted to take part in races and therefore we would have found ourselves sailing around a local reservoir between buoys for several hours with no real purpose. We decided we would soon get bored with this and have abandoned the idea altogether.

We purchased the wet suits from a Northampton company, Pinnell & Bax, who were so understanding about our circumstances they gave us a full refund on the wetsuits and life vests. If ever we need wet gear in the future we would certainly use them again and recommend them to anyone else.

Our wet suits

Graham on his scaffolding

Scaffolding Poles

Graham & Sue mentioned some time ago that they needed to get on top of their conservatory to fix a water leak and to paint the roof structure but to do this Graham needed to put up some scaffolding and he couldn't get motivated enough to make a start. To help with the motivation Steve offered to lend a hand and went round late one afternoon. Although Graham had experience of constructing scaffolding before when organising beer festivals that needed staging however Steve was a complete novice.

They soon got stuck into the task helped by Graham's design and within three hours they had a framework on two sides of the conservatory which would be sufficient to get Graham started on the cleaning and painting.

This exercise indicates very clearly that we all need to be motivated, particularly when doing repairs around the house and with two people doing it the whole activity becomes less of a chore and more enjoyable.

New Arrival

Our friends Martin and Kate have recently adopted a new kitten called Dizzee (after Dizzee Rascal not Dizzy Gillespie). Our two cats, Murphy and Millie, are both over ten years old and therefore we have forgotten how small kittens are and what high energy levels they have. Our two lounge around for most of the day until it's time to eat. Jane is particularly enamoured with Dizzy .

We have been over to Daventry to see Dizzy on several occasions and she always proves to be a real live wire. This photo shows her attacking Jane's trainers.

Kate and Martin's kitten - Dizzy

Our balloon retrieve

Balloon Festival

We haven't been involved in ballooning since we sold our own balloon in May. Colin was short of crew on the Sunday morning of the Northampton Balloon Festival and so we offered to help out. As it turned out the Sunday morning weather was perfect and the first opportunity for flying of the whole weekend. We were up at 05:00 and out of the house by 05:30 and this picture was taken at 06:30 just as Colin was about to lift off from Billing Aquadrome with Pauline and Sue as passengers.

It was Colin's intention to have a relatively short flight and land in the the first clean (no mud) field that he came across. As it turned out there was still a lot of crops sitting in the fields and his track didn't take him close to any available fields until he got to Sharnbrook in Bedfordshire nearly one and a half hours later. He made an excellent landing in a pasture that had had horses in it at some time. We were then faced with the problem of finding the landowner. It turned out that the large house next to the field owned the land however they were away on holiday and there wasn't any open access so we had to dismantle everything, carry it to the nearest gate and heave it over before loading it into the back of the trailer.

We enjoyed the retrieve and it took us back to the time when we first started crewing for the ballooning business nearly twenty years ago. Chasing across the Northamptonshire countryside trying to anticipate where

Once we returned home we discussed how we felt about the morning and possibly for the first time we realised that we were happy with the decision we made to stop ballooning when we did.

A Museum Piece in the Sky

At the end of one of our very long cycle rides in preparation for Cycle4Cynthia we heard the loud drone of an unusual aircraft. As we scanned the skies a World War II Avro Lancaster bomber flew into view. By the time Steve had searched his panniers for the camera it was heading into the distance but at least we caught a glimpse of this relic from the past that is still airworthy.

On the same day there should have been a Red Arrows display at Silverstone but it had to be cancelled due to a number of unauthorised aircraft in the vicinity.

Lancaster bomber over the house

Self build visit

Self Build & Renovation Visit

As part of the continuing community housing project (see blog for more information) Steve and Nick drove down to Swindon to the Self Build and Renovation Centre. This was a preliminary visit so we make sure it was the right place to go for the whole group later in October.

It's an interesting centre with advice on a whole range of subjects from finding suitable land using Plotshare to building the ideal timber framed house with reusable energy. It contained all the information one needs to plan and build a new house. Although it's called "Self Build" there is no expectation that people will get their hands dirty or rick their backs actually doing the work but more informing visitors about what to expect from a project manager and a builder.

The centre has a house at the centre and a variety of ideas about structures and finishes. The whole visit took them more than three hours and so they reported back that it will be worthwhile the whole team going to visit.

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