Garden and chicken problems

Some issues in my garden – advice please!

For starters, something else is living in the chicken run apart from the chickens.

There’s this huge great tunnel:

Tunnel in chicken run

Easily big enough to get two fists in. Some other critter is coming in and presumably stealing the chicken food.

Whatever it is it has not harmed the chickens and doesn’t take the eggs.

Both P and I think we have seen it, but only ever fleetingly before it backs away. I’ve been out on evenings when someone else’s cat is sitting on the outside of the chicken pen staring intently down the hole. But I just missed whatever it was. My impression of what I saw the one time I caught sight of it, was that it was cute, and red faced and looked almost like a teddy bear. All I saw was its head poking out of the hole before it vanished. P’s abiding impression was more grey in colour, but again he thought cute.

Obviously the most likely culprit is a rat. But neither of us thought we saw that. And it is a huge great hole for a rat!

Our thoughts after that turned to stoaty, weaselly, minky things. But how likely are they in an urban garden? And wouldn’t they have gone for the chickens.

Could the squirrels – which are very interested in chicken feed – be able to tunnel underground like that?

Obviously I should dig the hole over and probably I should put some chicken wire down on the ground too. But thus far I have just not got around to it.

The other problem is a strange discolouration on the leaves of a big variety of different plants.

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

Plant discolouration

It’s on a shrub in a pot on the decking.

It’s on the elder.

It’s on a sweet smelling yellow leaved shrub I feared that careless gardeners had killed by hacking to the ground despite being told not to, but which has behaved as if we had pollarded it and sprung back.

I am concerned that the same thing is happening to so many plants. Is it a bug? Is it a disease? If I leave it will it go away!?

Parkrun #3

A personal best today at Forest Rec where I shaved 8 seconds off my previous PB!

I can’t get my head around how I achieved what I did the first time I did this.

My personal achievement this time was about the amount of time I spent running vs walking. It’s always my target to keep running without a break for ten minutes, and that is usually a significant challenge. I think it’s much more a mental problem than a physical one. My breathing is fine these days, the asthma is no longer a problem at this stage (I even forgot my inhaler this morning), I’m not cramping, my legs don’t hurt. I just can’t keep running.

This morning I managed a wopping twenty minutes of running before first breaking to a walk. Never done that before.

Looking at the splits afterwards I was pretty chuffed too – three of the KMs were roughly the same at 7mins, the final amazingly under 6mins (half of it is downhill, which helps). I deliberately start really slow and end up at the very back of the pack – but I am pacing myself well and keeping reasonably steady. My earliest 5k had wildly different times for each different split. Is this what you are supposed to do?

My second parkrun

In May 2013, I found out about Parkrun, in April 2014, I did my first timed 5k at the Forest Rec. So now it’s clearly time for my annual three mile run!

Last week I planned to go to Colwick, which somehow technically is my home run, even though the Forest is closer. I got my running clothes ready so I could grab them quickly and get out of the house; I made sure I didn’t drink too much, I got an early night, and I set an alarm for the only day of the week I can usually get a lie-in. I then spent the whole night tossing and turning and being woken by cats and at about 6am I felt so miserable I turned the alarm off and resolved to sleep through the morning.

This week I was still watching TV at midnight, I had had at least two large gins, but felt properly tired after an extremely busy week and as soon as I hit the sack I was in deep sleep. Which meant I woke without an alarm just before 8am feeling refreshed and able to bound out of bed, find the clothes I had not set out and head off to Colwick with plenty of time to spare.

I have once recce’d Colwick to try and work out the parking and start line arrangements as it is much less clear than the Forest Rec and might involve paying for parking. But although I vaguely knew where I was going the free car park I was trying for had a locked barrier on it and I had to park in the street by the racecourse. Walking around the park I got completely disoriented and ended up walking past the 2km marker with 15 minutes till the start time – in other words, I was halfway around the course and had to turn back. I ended up having to run a bit to get to the start in time. The whole point of Colwick is that you run around a lake – so the only short cut back to the start is a little bit damp!

The event is huge – well over 200 runners. Lots of very thin, very well equipped people. I’m not sure if I was grumpier by the time I got to the start, but it didn’t quite feel as nice as the Forest. The team and officials were welcoming and professional but no other runner spoke to me. At the Forest, there were lots of chats at the start line, and I had a nice talk to a lovely lady in the later part of life who told me about her continuing battle to get under 30mins, even though she ran every week.

My reason for trying Colwick as well as the Forest, even though the Forest is closer, cheaper and easier, is that the Forest has a very hilly section you have to run twice! Colwick is definitely flat. This week it was windy and dry and the paths were compact. It is apparently famously muddy.

My focus in the 5k is running further at the start – keeping going for longer before I break into a walk. I can now routinely run a whole mile on the treadmill, sometimes in around 8mins. I can run a 10-minute mile without really losing my breath. But yesterday in the field I didn’t quite get back to the 2km marker without stopping for a bit of a walk, mainly because I had already run a bit in the other direction!

I did complete, in 37’21”. Despite the lack of hills, my time increased slightly, but I definitely comfortably beat my awful Spooky Sprint time. I can’t possibly see myself ready to do a 10k if the Parkinsons event happens again.

Parkrun has lots of interesting ways to crunch the data, so I know: I came 209th out of 229. Only four men were slower than me, most of the people who finished at the same time as me were older women. There was one nice moment when I overtook a walking woman close to the end and called out “only 400m to go!” (which I knew because I also had the RunKeeper app running, the curve of the course means you can’t see the finish from the last KM) she replied “Oh really? is that all?” and managed a sprint finish. 373 men my age have run that course, and only four of them have EVER run it slower than me.

Now my knees are giving me grief and I’m not sure if this amount of knee pain means a) I have just used them a bit and it will be fine or b) I am on track for a sports injury and should stop running. I don’t meet the threshold for seeing my GP about it, according to the NHS website.

I will definitely run Parkrun again. I can’t guarantee it will be next week and I can’t promise it won’t be a year till I get around to it again!

One piece of interesting news the team passed on: yesterday was the day Park Run ran in France for the first time.

Bank Holiday nosh

Had a friend over for some food over the bank holiday, which gave me an excuse to go slightly mad on the food front.

We ate…

Marmalade gin tonics

Shake a generous measure of gin, a teaspoon of marmalade, a splash of crème de pamplemousse rose, bitters with ice, and serve with tonic.

Marmalade gin tonic

Walnut and gorgonzola croissants

Half a pack of puff pastry treated like this:

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

I also tried these little tomato half tartlets but the puff was much springier than expected and ejected their toppings in the oven..

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

The starter was a stilton and smoked mackerel pâté – blitz equal weights of smoked mackerel and stilton with a little crème fraiche and freshly squeezed lime juice. For 4 small portions, about 100gr each.

Smoked mackerel and Stilton pate

There was a black olive and tarragon loaf from the breadmaker to go with it. More tarragon next time.

At about this point I stopped taking photos.

The disgustingly healthy main was a leafy salad with celery, walnut and grapes with a honey mustard dressing to accompany a frittata which will probably feed me all week. It’s a regular recipe as it uses up the eggs and is reasonably healthy. I used caramelized onions from the freezer that had been made overnight in the slow cooker, with a fresh onion, two red peppers, two packs of cubetti di pancetta and half a bag of very tired looking new potatoes that seemed to come out OK. I fry the veg, boil the spuds and then plonk the lot in a lined 9″ cake tin for half an hour on a medium heat, topped with cheese, with 8 beaten eggs. Cheddar this time, usually something bluer.

Still vaguely healthy for the dessert – a gin and pink grapefruit sorbet. I was very impressed with the juice yield from a single grapefruit but the recipe perhaps over-sweetens the mix and removes almost too much of the tartness of the grapefruit. Next time, three grapefruits, 200gr sugar, 350ml water. I completely forgot the egg white stage and the final dish did not seem to mind at all.

I also made some truffles – a small pot of cream halved and heated, in the first half 150gr dark chocolate, in the second half 150gr white chocolate. Pour the ganache into a bowl and enfridgen overnight. Scoop the mix out in teaspoons and roll first in your hand and then on either cocoa powder or icing sugar and plate prettily. This made far too many so I got to take a box into work as well. Plenty of opportunity to flavour with something liqueury but I didn’t this time. I’ve also before made earl grey tea and white chocolate truffles by steeping the heated cream in loose leaf earl grey before going on to make the ganache, but not this time.

The next wodge of 8×5 cards for my Zentangle card index

Over the last month in quiet moments I have made more cards for my index box. The children are beginning to use them and occasionally contribute cards themselves. We had a session where they tried to create a tangle, with varying degrees of success.

The popularity of my club varies wildly, with a classroom full of children on, erm, lunchtimes when it rains and when it is close to freezing outside. Presumably by the summer term I will have no students at all.

An initial thought when starting to make these cards was that when I had enough it might be interesting to scan them and turn them into a deck of cards. There are printers on the internet that can take a set of artwork and print them as 52 playing cards, with or without suits and numbers, for a small sum – the more you print, the less it costs per deck. I think one of the famous blogging CZTs sold a deck of cards in her Etsy store, but didn’t ship to the UK. I think this would be fine for personal use but if I wanted to sell them (eg to other UK teachers interested in the idea of a Zentangle club) it would be awfully complicated from a copyright point of view.

One final set of info before we progress to the tangle designs: here are some sources of information for people wanting to find out more, including the students who come to Zentangle class.

Zentangle.com – where it all began. Now you can buy equipment, sign up for the newsletter, read the blogs, and learn new tangles as soon as they are published. You can be inspired by the worldwide community of tanglers.

Tanglepatterns.com – the most comprehensive and organised list of tangles on the internet, along with regular updates and a huge list of suggested string patterns. Well worth the couple of dollars to pay for the PDF index to all of the patterns the author knows. You can use this index for inspiration (eg she suggests printing on card and cutting out all the tangles and putting them into a scrabble bag) or as a reference when you have seen something and are trying to work out its name and how to draw it.

Zenpopper.com – As I write, the main website is suspended. Hopefully it will be back soon. But their youtube channel is still going strong. They have a hundred or so videos showing you how to make the patterns. Perhaps this will make it easier for some people to understand how to make one of the tangles, rather than the step-by-step instructions? I do like the speeded up, machine drawn versions – some of the other hand drawn ones lead me to getting a bit distracted by the state of the manicure. The main website includes a random machine which produces three tangles to use today, if you are struggling to make your choice. I particularly like the sort of stalagmites in their header image, and I can’t work out a name for that pattern, although I think I can see how to draw it.

The Diva’s weekly challenge – The Diva is a CZT with a blog. Every week, she makes a suggestion for people to use in their own tangling, and over the week, a hundred or so people draw a tile to her suggestion. Full instructions are always given, including on how to publish on the internet, and it is fascinating to see how people interpret the same thing differently. I showed the challenge to my students one week, and we all learned how to do “Unbatz” (see below); the following week they asked to see what the current week’s challenge was too. AS yet, no-one has completed a tile within the week that can be shared.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the new cards for my index box:

CADENT

Cadent

CUBINE

Cubine

EMINGLE

Emingle

FLUX

Flux

KNIGHTSBRIDGE – VARIATIONS

Knightsbridge variations

NEKTON

Nekton

RIXTY

Rixty

STRINGS – IDEAS

Strings - ideas

TANGLENHANCERS

Tanglenhancers

UNBATZ

Unbatz

Zentangle Club

I started a Zentangle club at school on a Monday lunchtime so students can learn about creating Zentangle doodles, edging into mindfulness occasionally, but also just sitting quietly and drawing of a lunchtime.

I started by making a poster and offering lunch passes so people could get through the dinner hall quickly.

My other extra curricula club -  mindfulness and doodling with Zentangle.

The first two weeks, we watched the videos that came with the Zentangle Apprentice kit, all the way from America!

The week after that I made this card to show all that we had learned. The third week, loads more people came, so this card was really useful! I will have to photocopy more when we get back to school.

Summary of what we have learned so far in Zentangle Club.

I think after half term I will go back to basics and show the videos again for the new people.

My only criticism of the Zentangle Apprentice materials is what to do after the children have learned the first 8 tangles. There is clearly lots of potential from just the first ones, but what do we do after that?

At first I thought I would show some more of the Zentangle videos on Youtube in subsequent weeks, and I wondered about borrowing the departmental visualiser and projecting live images of me making tangles.

Then I wondered about making a few cards like this to project in subsequent weeks which give a bunch of new tangles with instructions.

Seven tangles for tomorrow's club. So much more fun than marking.

This didn’t work massively well – perhaps we just need a bit of time working on how to understand the instructions?

Ultimately, I would like to have a huge selection of tangles, each one drawn on a blank 8×5 index card, so that students can pick and choose from the instructions and see what they would like to draw today. Before long, the students should be able to help make the cards themselves, but until then, I’ve had a very happy half term making designs of my own. Each card I have made has the step-by-step instructions and then a sample completed tile using the new tangle.

BETWEED
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

FESCU
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

FLORZ
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

HUGGINS
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

MIST
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

NIPA
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

NZEPPEL
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

PARADOX
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

VEGA
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

W2
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

ZANDER
8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

PHSE: three fantastic resources for a lesson about consent

Here are three fantastic resources for a PHSE lesson in sex education on the topic of consent. Definitely something we should be teaching in my view! Some of the material is a little explicit and so this is intended for older teenagers. Of course we can’t teach sex ed without being explicit.

For a starter, here are some quotes from the Aqua song “Barbie Girl” as reimagined by LOLCATS. Barbie Girl dates back to my university days, but it is definitely a song today’s teens still know.

For a detailed, but easy to read exploration of consent, there is a fantastic cartoon on OhJoySexToy. Much of the rest of the website – not at all suitable for the classroom! Even this cartoon may be well outside the comfort zone of many teachers, so review it carefully before introducing it in yours.

Finally a letter from the Guardian “To the girl who accused me of rape“. This is a very tough read – and on the evidence presented, a deeply unfair scenario. However, it touches on some issues that are important to talk about and touch on the themes that we use as our bedrock in sex ed: people who have sex early regret it and that sex is supposed to be between two people who are in a committed long term relationship who love and trust each other, and who are open and honest and able to talk to each other about sex before they actually start trying to do it!

This letter would also be a useful reinforcement to the fact that underage sex is actually illegal, a notion which has been responded to with disbelief from young people. Of course it’s not illegal, everyone is doing it. Erm, a) yes it is illegal, and as the letter shows there are some very serious consequences to consider and b) it’s really, really not the case that everyone is doing it.

All three of these resources are things that crossed my browser from adults saying “I wish this had been part of sex ed when I was at school.” For those of us charged with teaching sex ed, it can be a part of it in our classrooms.