Image: Andy's tree in blossom

Happenings and events impinging on our lives at the Sticks, whether it is world events or the death of our beloved Old Dog; anything from discovering my grandmother was almost right when she claimed a family connection with the hill on which (according to our address) we now live to the cat sending a Tweet. The random stuff of life, some serious, some trivial but all of contributing to making us who we are.  

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Final harvest

Who ever said making preserves was an Autumn occupation? This year we started in July with the first batch of Plum jam and continued through to mid November. 

For the last few months our kitchen has been on a seemingly endless cycle of coring, peeling and slicing apples: spicy apple jam; pickled apples; frozen apples; stewed apples; apple and tomato chutney, apple and tomato soup. Apple strudel, apple crumble, apple juice and just plain, fresh apples have added a desert course to our evening meal, unusual at the Sticks as the chef, who also doubles as the Webmaster, refuses to make desert and won't let anyone else into "his kitchen" when he is "creating".

Guerrera in field

We recently assisted a Mexican migrant enter the UK and settle in Staffordshire. The migrant left Mexico in November 2019 and spent 8 months in California. Several earlier attempts, including via the Netherlands, to get her into the UK failed because coronavirus disrupted the travel routes. When she eventually arrived she  had to spend a mere 24 hours in quarantine and that was only due only to a mistake in the paperwork, otherwise she would have been waved through. She has been granted permanent residence in the UK for a relatively small sum of money - certainly less than the cost of a visa. Everyone we speak to thinks it is a touching story. 

Webmaster and Annie Pearl Avery

The recent upsurge in the Black Lives Matter campaign reminded me of the time we met civil rights campaigner Annie Pearl Avery at her Ancient Africa, Enslavement and Civil War museum in Selma, Alabama. It was only three days after a far right white supremacsist had killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville as she demonstrated against a Unite the Right rally and with Trump seemingly emboldening such racists (a view now supported by the data), the importance of Annie Pearl's project couldn't have been more striking. 

Annie Pearl explained that her mission was to inform (or remind) everyone that Africa was the cradle of human life and that African history is something African Americans should be extremely proud of.  Of course the history of enslavement and the fight for civil rights is important she said but she now believed that in the continued struggle for equality it was also important for everyone to know that African Americans have a long, rich and deep history that isn't defined by interaction with white men and didn't start with slavery. We are all descended from Africans.

There is more on our tour of the Southern US states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama here together with a few photos.  It's work in progress so more will be added over time.




It's Monday. The Webmaster's discarded clothes from yesterday are on the bedroom floor, next to the laundry basket.  The basket is empty, the contents dumped on the utility room floor the previous night. "We have a laundry basket" I shout. He's in the next room tapping away on his keyboard and letting out large, loud sighs. "Yeah, OK," he calls back, signalling his total ignorance of what I'd said.

"So why don't you use it?" 

"I've found the problem but it's a bastard to fix."


Measuring more than 2 metres

After a cold, wet, windy and bleak winter which saw floods in many parts of the country and waterlogged gardens in many more, this week has given us a taste of what we can only hope will be brighter days ahead. With the current coronavirus pandemic and the fear of its effects and consequences stalking many of us anything to bring cheer and distraction had to be welcome. 

Ruby and Granite

Each February since I retired and began to pursue the good life my house begins to fill with seed trays. This year has been no exception, albeit with a greater degree of organisation and a little more technology as I attempt to learn the lessons from previous years. So each morning for the last four weeks I have done the rounds to check on my gradually enlarging collection of seeds and seedlings. Which needed watering? Which should stay in the propagator or on the heat mats and which should be moved to somewhere cooler? Do I go with what I think is right or what the experts say? And which of the conflicting experts is correct? 

Child and baby in Bosra

I was in Syria for only one week in 1993. A long time ago.  Every time I transcribe another section of the diary I kept for that week in 1993 I am saddened. I wonder what happened to the people I met. The children I saw then may be scattered refugees now, or grieving the loss of their own children or struggling to keep them safe and warm. Something I can say and know but which I struggle to understand.