The Old Manse, Tarbrax, Scotland.
9th January 2015

    The weather has been somewhat wet and blowy, though not particularly cold, it rarely drops below freezing, though it doesn't get much higher than 6 Centigrade. Apparently there's a tropical storm coming, or at least the tail end of it. Last night's blow had a tile out of the roof, which is now replaced. The idiot roofer that you might have heard me refer to before being the cause, I imagine his ears burn every time the wind picks up around here.
    Anyway, the relatively small amounts of damage are now repaired in time for the next one, which may be tonight, so I've left the ladders nearby. 

    I've made some progress with the new addition to the machinery collection. You may remember this iconic tractor, it's a Ferguson TE20 which most people refer to as the Wee Grey Fergie. I have joined the Ferguson Club, found suppliers of useful bits and contacted a few local enthusiasts.
   This particular one is the TED20 TVO type, it will run on paraffin or Tractor Vapourising Oil as well as petrol. Conveniently I have a supply of heating oil, or kerosene which has similar characteristics to paraffin.
    It is the same kind as I learned to drive at Low Hill Farm, although I'm not sure if that one was Petrol, Diesel or TVO. I remember there was an old Fordson which was Petrol / Paraffin, I think that one might have even been on the farm before Dad arrived, but I think it was scrap by the time I was old enough to recognise a tractor.
    You will probably be wondering why I might need a tractor, especially one nearly as old as I am. It is '56, while I date from '52.The real reason is that I just decided I wanted one, but I have several other convenient excuses, including that Fiona wanted one. It will be useful around the 'estate' and will go up in value rather than down, assuming nothing dramatic falls off. The market for such things seems quite buoyant, and if it is refurbished, eg new tyres, the value goes up accordingly. The only expensive bits required are one, or possibly two, new rear tyres, and an exhaust, both now ordered. Otherwise you will be pleased to hear that it is running well and seems to have no major defects, now that I have sorted the clutch adjustment. I never realised I needed one of these until I saw Susan's in deepest Englandshire. Fergie fixation is obviously an addictive process, and as a result the habit is expensive. Once the tyres are fixed I'll have to cruise around the local farms and see if anybody has any old compatible equipment. Some kind of back mounted bucket would be a start. Something like the picture on the right would be nice.
    I'm hoping to be able to use the tractor for pulling minor tree stumps out, and for moving stuff around, such as chopped wood for the stove and soil for the poly-tunnel. There is also a nice big heap of horse manure that I hope to retrieve from a neighbour who has an excess of it. I've never wanted a horse myself, I can see the advantages, but just don't trust them. However, if somebody else has some quietly converting money into manure, I'm quite happy to take the stuff away.

    Since returning to Scotland a little before Christmas, I'm sorry to say, the weather has deteriorated somewhat, little or no snow, until recently but cold, wet and windy. So I have been working inside on the various bits of machinery and on general maintenance and repair, such as trying to get Fiona's Yamaha organ working properly. I've been met with limited success there, it is better than it was, but still rather quieter than it should be. Unfortunately there are a lot of electronic chips in it, and I haven't a clue what they do, so I'm hoping the problem is a simple electrical one like a blown transformer or a loose wire. What I really need is an electronics engineer, though my proof reader has indicated that the problem lies around the pre-amp.

    For inclement days one indoor project is getting Mum's book of stories into a form that can be published as an e-book. She is a very good story-teller, so I'm hoping to keep some of them as audio tracks as well as typed, illustrated versions. Learning how to do that is tricky, keeping up with the technology generally is always a bit of an effort, but it's my own fault, I like to know how things work as well.  Listening to the wireless I heard the latest news that NASA and Nissan are developing the next idea in self driving cars. I find that my own car makes all sorts of decisions without telling, let alone asking me, as it is, so I'm usually a bit stunned by the rate of technological change, I have been since they introduced colour TV. 
    I seem to have kept up with it so far, and  hope to stay abreast of it for a few years yet, but when I started writing it was with a pen with a replaceable nib, which was dipped in school ink-well. (Mind you, the school might have just been using up the old stock.)  Now I can dictate to the computer and it converts it into script, although there's no need to print it nowadays. That last paragraph was created that way. It works well enough, but I still find the keyboard faster. The time will come when you just can't get paper. But bearing in mind the grammar, spelling and punctuation we now find on the internet, perhaps it would be better not to print it anyway. If voice activation, ideographs and synthetic voice software keep advancing, I can see a time when it will not be necessary to be literate. Not a good thought.

    I was talking with my uncle a few weeks ago, he's 93 or thereabouts and having been through the war will have seen even more change, my father was in one of the last cavalry charges of the British army, fortunately the village, in Palestine I think, was deserted. I don't think he would have wanted to slash at people with a sabre.

     I wonder if the rate of change was faster or slower after the war. Most of the recent changes have been modifications of stuff we are used to, I mean colour TV wasn't that much of a shock, but mobile phones certainly made a change in the way the world works. I suppose it's not so much the actual change as the rate at which it becomes commonplace and unavoidable. I seem to be balanced between trying new, exciting, and expensive and the older, more predictable and considerably cheaper. So I usually send emails to save on postage, but repair old cars that don't have expensive components, and are tax disc exempt. We all get pushed into the future though, as the past gets difficult to use. Paraffin is, for instance, almost impossible to buy near here - and Tarbrax and the surrounding area was the centre of the shale industry 150 years ago, having, in turn, replaced whale oil.

    I guess the real changes are simply the ones that affect us, so most of the tekky stuff isn't that important.

    The sun has come out now, and it looks fine enough to get outside and do something in the garden. I've drained the sprinkling system that waters the plants in the poly-tunnel, thereby avoiding frost damage, but I think a little manual watering might keep a more few plants alive. The main tunnel itself seems to be holding up against the recent rather high winds, although one of the smaller, cheaper versions split in the last storm. Not too difficult to repair though, I think. I'll probably try to get a thicker, stronger skin for it. Hopefully Winter will pass soon, and allow me to reset the automatic system. The rain that runs off the tunnel is collected in a buried barrel and is then pumped up into an old, (cleaned) central heating oil tank. The battery driven 12 volt pumps are set to spray that onto the lines of plants at 6pm after the heat of the sun has reduced a bit, so when it's running there is not much for me to do. Fiona does a lot of pottering in there with beans and maize and things. Just the legal stuff though, somebody has been growing cannabis and dumping the old root stock in the Hermand Birchwood car park. We get the occasional garden escapee taking root around there, but I don't think this one will turn into an invasive alien, rather too cold and wet.

    Since I wrote the above, it is now the 18th, I find it has started snowing, and the temperature is falling. Perhaps I'd better go and light a fire. The cat has come and told me about it. He is pretty good proof that cats can communicate perfectly well with humans, they just don't listen much.
see y'all, keep warm.

The weed
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