The Pig Yard

September - The weather at the beginning of the month led us to believe that we were going into a period of warm settled conditions but nothing about the British climate is ever settled.

Our lodgers - Dave & Lucie have been no bother and have helped out with some of the chores - Lucie with loads of ironing, Dave cleaning the windows and mowing the lawn, it will seem very strange coming home to an empty house. On the 3rd October they flew off to Oz via Hong Kong on their four year great adventure, goodbyes were painful. We hope to publish some "notes from a down-under island" in the coming months.

Despite the weather we managed to get a few flights in. Steve's last flight of the month involved landing in a stubble field, the Farm Manager refused access because it was under-sown with rape. Steve used all his negotiation skills to calm this very angry young man. Most reasonable farmers allow access at this time of year because the newly sown crop hasn't even germinated but in this instance there was some resentment that balloonists land without giving notice. We had to carry the balloon off the field and although this was quite hard work it certainly keeps us healthy, luckily the 70 year old passenger in the basket was also strong and fit.

Steve now has to go back to visit the farm manager during October to discuss whether his land will become a sensitive area or not. Perhaps with a little persuasion he will come round to understand ballooning as a leisure activity that requires the co-operation of landowners.

For the first time this year Colin flew the new NAPS balloon. He purchased the Wrangler Footwear balloon when the contract came to an end hence the footprints on the fabric. This is a nice piece of kit with modern burners, well made basket and a nearly new envelope.

With Dave no longer flying for The Ballooning Business or available for weather conferences it is likely that Steve and Colin will be sharing weather notes and deciding on which slots look good enough for a flight. Our two balloons will look great side by side next year.

We had the opportunity to cut down an ash tree from the garden of a friendly farmer. Jane did an assessment of the size of the trunk but it didn't prepare us for the fact that the tree had fallen into a hollow and the only way out was up a 5 metre bank. There were several minutes of discussion before we agreed to even attempt to cut the tree up.

The whole activity was also complicated because there was a hawthorn tree entangled in the ash branches. We had to cut off the brushwood first and drag it up the bank all the way to a nearby field. It took us four hours on the first weekend just to get rid of the small branches. We ended up covered in scratches from the hawthorn, dust from the chain saw and sweat from the effort.

Thankfully David volunteered to help but even Mr Superfit found it a struggle to move the branches and logs up to the trailer. After a couple of hours we decided to call it a day. The trailer was full and the prospect of a cup of tea at home was calling us. Dave & Jane still had enough energy for a joke and a laugh amidst the final stumps - these would need to be removed another time.

By the time we got home and started to unload the trailer it began to rain so our timing was excellent. In twelve months time the wood will be seasoned and ready for the log burner. Steve will start cutting the logs over the winter so that it seasons faster. From past experience it is much tougher to cut and split the wood after it has been seasoned.

On our third visit to clear the brushwood, the chain saw had trouble cutting the final lengths of trunk, initially because the chain was on the wrong way round but also because it wasn't sharpened correctly. This tree will not be cleared until the middle of next month.

Our usual October campfire was brought forward to accommodate Dave & Lucie's departure at the beginning of October. The weather was perfect - too windy for Dave to fly but dry and as the last vestiges of daylight slipped away so the wind dropped so that there was not too much smoke from the fire. These were probably the best conditions we have ever experienced for this event.

Everyone was in high spirits and the backdrop of Jane's stone wall with some atmospheric lighting set a really magical scene. We're not sure what was at work but Jeremy suddenly made an announcement that he and Janine were getting married at the end of October and everyone was invited to celebrate the day after knot is tied.

After plenty of bangers, burgers, bacon, baked beans and baked potatoes the fire was built up to give us plenty of warmth as the night turned chilly. Jane and Sue distributed exotic desserts - this is a rough and ready camp fire so why the exotic desserts - you have to give into some luxuries (they also took no preparation).

The serious drinking started for those not driving home and the talk, music and good cheer continued until around 1 o'clock by which time everyone else had gone.

The fire was still warm enough the following morning for Dave to be able to toast some bread for breakfast. Yet again the hole was filled in with layers of bricks and sand as though it had never been there but ready to be unearthed in a year's time for another camp fire.

On the last day of the month Jane's sister, Ruth, flew into Heathrow from Tasmania. We were there to collect her and take her to Jane's mum in  Barnet. She arrived safe and early however her luggage had not been put on the plane in Melbourne so she had to make enquiries as to when her bag would arrive. After the usual form filling activities Ruth was assured that it would be delivered the following day.

As it turned out the bag did arrive in Barnet just after midnight the following day - Ruth only had the clothes she travelled in so Qantas were saved the cost of a new wardrobe by their swift action.