01 July 2022

Project water butt: all done now?

When I had installed my water butt, I had improvised its drainage a bit. But I did want to do it the proper way. For a few quid, you can buy some kit that lets the drainpipe fill up the butt, but it drops the water straight into the drains when the butt is full. That seemed like the proper solution! But it had sort of lingered a bit at the bottom of my to do list. Now it was time to act.

I installed the additional piece and hope all has gone well. At least it was a day with a lot of rain shower so I would be able to see it in action soon! Would it work?

When I had a look in torrential rain I concluded that in essence it worked, but the connection between the drain pipe in the water but was a bit leaky. The pipe that had been provided had not fit the connector, so I had just used some wider pipe as some sort of converter. And that leaked! I sorted that with electrical tape.  

Altogether, the system seemed to work. And it's still is a bit of a mishmash, with white brackets on a brown with black drainage system, but so be it. It's a lot better than it was!

The new setup

Stubborn night in the hills

June is the month of exam board meetings. Martin is our examinations officer, so he is very busy. Earlier in the year we had agreed it would be a good idea to go camping together, but there hadn't been an opportunity for it yet. That weekend we were going to go on a short hike. But when in the last one of the meetings he pointed out the task of examinations officer was, given the amount of work and when it needs to be done, unrealistically heavy and he was feeling the strain, I figured he looked like he needed a night in the hills. This tends to revive me no end. Maybe it would work for him too! So after the meeting I suggested it. He didn't take up the offer, but by then the idea of a night in the hills was lodged in my brain. And I hadn't had a week anywhere near as heavy as his, but I figured I could do with a small adventure. And I hadn't brought my tent out in ages. The weather wasn't ideal, but I decided to just pack my bag and go.

I decided to camp on the moorland above Mynydd Llandygai, where a stream splits in two. So I parked up in the village and walked in that direction. And it was a bit wetter than I had hoped. What nutter decides to go camping on a night like this! I chose to take a bit of shelter in the pumping station along the route. Its roof is largely intact. It is not a place to set up camp though; too much sheep poo and suchlike. I just read the paper for a while, and it got a bit dryer. Then I continued my way.

I got to the spot and saw that it wasn't particularly good for pitching tents. It was a very windy night (again; who decides to go camping on a night like this), so I did want to stand in a bit of shelter! But there wasn't much level ground.

I managed to find just enough in the lee side of a rock and I hoped for the best. My little tent isn't very good with strong winds! But I didn't think it would blow away. And I thought I would manage to sleep through the flapping sounds. 

I got everything ready and then went for a bath. I was a bit damp and cold and that never helps motivating you to get naked and into a stream, but once you're in it, it is amazing. And of course it was! I dried myself off, and right then a big rainshower hit and I dived headfirst into the tent.

I spend some time reading the newspaper while listening to the rain on the roof of the tent, and then I went to sleep. It might have been mid June, but it wasn't the sort of weather when a thin sleeping bag is enough! My down jacket had to provide backup. But then I was comfortable, and I slept well. 

I woke up and I could hear it wasn't raining. Good news! I zipped open the tent and I saw some sunshine. A lovely view! So I got out of bed and get that my breakfast stuff. It was still very windy, so I had to be a bit careful with the stove, but it did work out.

I love having my breakfast while looking at a beautiful empty landscape. But in this wind I didn't really linger. I also saw more rain coming, so after breakfast I brushed my teeth and packed up. Time to go home!

It was only a short walk back to the car, and an even shorter drive back home. But I had felt really away from everything. Mission accomplished!

Camping spot

Breakfast in the sun

Not only sun around

Walking back to civilisation

30 June 2022

No climate, but firewood

When my climate course ran for the third time, only one person showed up for the first session. I could tell that a second person was trying to get on for the second session, but it didn't work out. An email later turned out it had indeed been connection issues. And once you have missed the first two sessions it will probably be difficult to join in for the third one. By then you have missed 40% of the course!

I was just about to start the third session when I got an email that the one participant I had had so far couldn't make it that evening. I did start the zoom meeting just in case, but indeed, nobody showed up. A bit of a pity!

While I was just doing some stuff while seeing if anyone would show up, my eye fell on a posting on the village Facebook page. Somebody was doing up their house, and had some waste wood. Was someone interested? And I was! I had burnt up quite a lot of my stack over the winter, and some replenishment would be welcome. And I suddenly had spare time. So but I will certain the one was going to show up for my session, I jumped into the car and went just down the road.

The man who had advertised the wood was pottering around outside, and he kindly helped me put all the wood into my car. Went home I stacked it into the garage. I would have some sawing to do!

I recently had bought a saw horse and it would certainly come in handy. At the end of the sawing spree after the renovation of the roof, I had had a firewood stack taller than me, and by late spring it had come down to shin height. Time to do some sawing again, and build it back up to its original height! I didn't know I would be spending my evening on this sort of thing, but I suppose there is some similarity between spreading information about climate change, and avoiding yet a bit more use of fossil fuels…

The saw horse in action 

29 June 2022

Moel Siabod in the evening

Last month I had said goodbye to Kate who was going off to sea again. She would be back in September. But then, only two weeks later, I got the message that she was actually in the UK. She had been in the US, but was actually not going off to sea. And she was in England now, but she would be back in Wales regularly! I quite liked that thought. A week later she was nearby up by for lunch. That was great! But she would be back to England again. In the week she was back I was busy in the evenings, but then there was another week after that. So I kept my Wednesday evening free. She had suggested walking up Moel Siabod. And the weather was fine so we did that! We met at Pont Cyfwng. And in the evening heat we set off. It was a glorious day.

We would go up the ridge and go down clockwise. I hadn't been up that ridge in a long long time!

We had to have a break on the flank as Kate received a fungal from her solicitor, but otherwise we got up without incident. It was a beautiful route! And the views were good as well. We enjoyed them especially during a snack break. And I had forgot that once you reach the end of the climb, there actually is quite a lot of ridge to walk before you get to the actual summit. Very beautiful! And at the summit we sat down for some more snacks. But we didn't linger; the summit was riddled with midges. We were quickly on our way! And we soon walked into the shadow, but that was okay. By the time the sun set behind the hills we were almost back at the cars. This is the time of the long evenings! And I think we made excellent use of this one. I hope we'll do something like this again this summer!

Loud-shirted hike mates

View from snack break 1

Nantgwryd seen from the ridge

View from the summit


28 June 2022

Giving the mountain bike another chance

On the day I saw my physiotherapist I decided I should not go for a run. I had gone for a fair few runs beforehand just to make sure I had symptoms to show him, but now, of course, I wanted to get rid of these same symptoms again. And it was a glorious day. I decided to bring out the mountain bike. Or rather; my office bike. It is a bike that I had adopted because otherwise someone would have thrown it away. It was good enough to make it to Bangor from Menai bridge. And it clearly had had front suspension, but that had seized up by now. There was still about a centimetre of give in it. Not much! But it still was my best bike for the job. Big nobbly tires, a small frame, wide handle bars and a small gear.

The first time I had taken this thing into the hills I had been a bit ambitious about it, and spent a lot of time walking. No I just wanted to short ride. And I decided I could go around a strange conspicuous gorge nearby, right behind Moel Faban. That would be a fairly even route.

I biked up the steep way to the path. That was harder work than running it! But then on the smoother stretch you could take it easier. And coming down wasn't too eventful on the other side. I actually had a good time!

I didn't take my normal running route back into the village; that didn't look suitable for a bike. I bailed out earlier and made a bit of a detour over the country lanes. These are not very exciting, but if you are on bicycle, you don't have to spend much time on them. Especially downhill!

I was quite pleased with this design. I think I had given my heart and lungs enough to do, and I had not been bored. And I had barely spent any time walking beside the bicycle. Success!

The next time I did the same route, but in the other direction; I didn't like that very much. So the next time I went for a ride, I did it the original way around again. It was raining, but that wasn't a problem.

I think I have a new routine now for the time it will take for my ankle to heal. And it will only get better; Kate had accidentally brought her old mountain bike up from the south, and said she was happy for me to have it. This is a much, much better bike than the one I have been on so far. And I am starting to have the impression that a bike actually matters! Not just the rider. So maybe this marks a conspicuous change in my exercise life: I might be turning into a mild mountain biker!

Moel Faban seen from the back

Having a good time

27 June 2022

Cat in a murderous mood

Sometimes weeks pass without me having any reason to believe the cat has caught anything. And sometimes she is just on a killing spree. I hadn't seen her with any rodent for a long time when suddenly she walked into my office with a mouse in her mouth. She looked at me meaningfully, and then dropped the poor thing on the floor (quite like she had done the very first time). Quite some time of classic cat and mouse chase followed. And in the end, she noisily ate it in the middle of the office.

The next day she did it again. And when I later got into the bedroom, I found another half mouse. This was a different one! She had been active.

The cat showing off a dead mouse

Found this in the bedroom

That night I struggle to sleep. And the cat wasn't interested in joining me either. At some point I heard all sorts of crunching noises coming out of the office. I did check as I wasn't sleeping anyway; of course she was eating yet another mouse. I went back to bed. And then had to listen to another chase and a lot of squeaking. She was going through them rather quickly now! I seem to vaguely remember I thought, but as I must've been half asleep I'm not sure. And she did join me at some point.

When I woke up in the morning she wasn't there anymore. I found her sitting at the foot of the bed. That was a bit unusual. I suspect that there was yet another mouse. And when I opened the curtains I found out that was indeed the case. That was where the mouse has been hiding! This was relentless.

It probably requires full screen mode to find the mouse...

The next day I was away from home most of the time; I was in the office (on campus) during the day and went for a walk with Kate in the evening. But when I came back from either of them, I did not find any severed mouse heads or other indications of continuing slaughter. I thought maybe it had been just a phase! But this lady had clearly not forgot yet how to hunt.

The day after the quiet day all bets were off again. When I woke up she had another shrew in my bedroom. And cats don't tend to eat shrews. I got pity on the poor thing and sneakily caught it myself. The cat wasn't even following me when I brought it outside. I brought it to the downstairs garden, and released it into dense vegetation. I supposed that would do the job. I went back inside and soon I was working away at my computer. And then I heard a familiar sound. Squeaking! She was chasing a shrew again. I had the feeling it might be the very same one. She was just showing me I could try to interfere, but the person deciding the fate of the shrew would be her. I had no way of verifying, of course, whether this was the same shrew! I just think it was. And it didn't survive. I tried, little shrew! But Mevrouw Moor is a skilled killer…

26 June 2022

Physiotherapy for my ankle

I was glad I had found a sports physiotherapist in the area! I was scared that maybe I would not be able to keep running away I had been doing. I realised I was a bit addicted! But physiotherapists can sometimes work magic so I hoped he could just give me exercises to do that would keep me going.

I had considered taking the train, but there was a rail strike, so I drove. And I found it without difficulty. Just before nine I walked in and met Oliver, the physiotherapist. And soon we were having a chat to find out where my problem had come from. I had been running every day pretty much since the onset of the lockdown, so I wasn't sure why I now suddenly had an ankle problem. I say suddenly; it had slowly come up. But why? Maybe it was something to do with my increased running steeply uphill. But I had just been enjoying that so much!

He then had a bit of a look. He asked me to walk around, stand on tip toes, crouch down, et cetera. And he checked the strength and flexibility of both my ankles.

He decided the problem was in my ligaments; the ones that keep the outside of the ankle together. And there wasn't a big problem with them but they needed a little bit of care. He said that my ankles should be a bit more flexible, and my calf muscles too. He said I should just try to flex my ankle a bit, and sometimes stand on one leg, especially the right leg. And he said I should warm up before I run. Just some ankle lifts, for instance. 

He said I should run a bit less for now. He figured I could go back to normal in the long run!

In the end he gave me a calf massage and then time was up. He said I should try to stick with his advice, and then drop him a line in a few weeks. Hopefully I would be all back to normal. And if not, then I should book another appointment and we could see what he could do.

Given that I was in the area anyway, I dropped by at my friend and colleague Katrien's for coffee. That was lovely! And then it was time to go home and put what he said into practice. I hoped I could make it work! I really love my daily runs…

The sort of thing my physiotherapist wants me to do