Saturday, 31 December 2011

Strange Winter at Lilac Tree

Hello all,

Well, after the warnings of last year we all panic bought supplies, fitted snow chains and hunkered down for the worst winter on record.

What arrived in mid-December was, well, nothing.

The temperature is around 12 degrees at worst, a few blustery days, basically autumn.

So we thought the garden had got away with it but now we're all worried as the plants are more confused than we are.

As you can see, even the rose has started to bud...
A very confused Rose
Even the Lilac doesn't know what's happening...

Huh? Spring here already?
 The snap-dragons are still holding on strong as well.

Hold, hold, not until you see the white of the frost...

This poor willow thinks it's spring too...
So the garden is currently at risk.

I'm not playing this up, really.

If we get a frost now, most of the tree stock will suffer massive damage. The hardy roses will no doubt be ok and the willow will probably bounce back but there is a real risk of us losing our stock trees such as the apples and, dare I say it, the cherries. (the beautiful cherries! Noooooo!)

So there we are, after a wonderful christmas and a great run up to New Year, now we're all worried about the garden!

I suppose we've got to worry about something.

Could be worse, we could be commercial fruit farmers.

Happy New Year everybody,

All the team at Lilac Tree xxx

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dog powered home heating system...

Hello all!

As the dreaded Xmas looms, we are hunkering down for another hard winter at Lilac Tree.

The grass was crispy this morning and from this evening we'll be starting to leave the taps running at a slow dribble to stop the pipes freezing overnight.

The heaters are running at full pelt and I fear our carbon footprint is resembling more of a carbon snow-shoeprint.

Milly the dog is heating the house too, mostly using a mixture of carpet friction and warm methane. Still, it's nice of her to make an effort.

It was the wind, honest...

The decision to 'go plastic' with the farm's windows was definitely a good one as the main house is toasty all the time now. This, however, does make any trips outside all the more wintery.

The fig and the grape have finally given up and dropped their leaves and the ash trees are quickly following suit.

The new insulated flat roof seems to be working ok although the jury is out until it's piled with a couple of tons of snow like last year. Still, at least the threat of a collapsing glass roof has gone. I do miss the glass though, some of you who came to our wedding may remember it as the dance room. In winter though, our house became one room smaller and in the heat of summer the unrelenting sun was slowly cooking us and bleaching the books to boot.

My astronomy has been scuppered for the last couple of nights due to low, wintery cloud but we did manage to hunt down a compass at last so at least I can 'collimate' my telescope (letting it know where it is on the globe so that the auto-tracking function works). As a bonus, we can also, for the first time in 16 years, make the weathervane on the shed roof point in the right direction. (It turns out that we were about 100 degrees off!)

During the past week I have had amazing success hunting down Jupiter (not too tricky, it's the second brightest thing in the sky this time of year, next to the moon) and getting a lovely crisp image of not ony the planet itself but also her moons. So happy telescoping everyone and anyone who shares a similar interest (picked up from my geeky stargazing websites) I wish you clear skies!

By the by, Penny's book siging in Scarborough broke all previous records, as have all previous ones this time round. Fame and fortune await!

If there are any GoodReads members reading, I'd appreciate it if you could go on the site and hunt down the books and, y'know, like 'em and stuff.

Until next time dear readers,

The stargazing farm dwellers.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Book signings - Beverley and Hull

Had Penny's book signing day yesterday. Beverley first, then Hull at lunchtime.

Beverley was very foggy and seemed deserted when we arrived but soon got busy.
Slow start
But soon built up

It was then I saw a folk band called 'Freedom's Road' setting up about a hundred metres down the road from the signing venue. I decided to creep over and have a chat.
Freedom's Road
The guitarist, after a little persuasion, let me get on the mike to tell everyone about mum's signing and when I had finished, after a satisfying little clap, a few people drifted off in the direction of the store.

I stalked them like a sheep dog and watched at least half a dozen people go into the store. Well worth it. And thank you Freedom's Road who, among other snippets of wonder, told me that they remembered F*@!$#g David Bowie when he was poor and stealing milk! The things you hear huh? Wonderful.

Mum in Beverley before the kick off
This market stall agreed to point crime fans in our direction too, so thanks for your support guys

And so to Hull.

The Beverley signing was successful but what happened in Hull was way beyond my expectations.

Both signings were for 2 hours but within 6 minutes we had surpassed Beverley sales and were quickly heading for a Personal Best, which we got!

Adam, being uncharacteristically shy

 There are many people to thank for the success in Hull, but one of the main proponents was the store manager Adam, who I immortalise here.

 All manner of people turned up for the signing. Including some of the stars below.

These two little monkeys insisted on leaping in front of the camera every time I set up a shot, resulting in 12 pics to get this one!

Saleswoman at work
Background, the lesser spotted George

The fully stocked table (lasted about 20 mins)
The wonderful Jessica, whom I promised to make famous. Her family and Jessica stayed to chat to us for a good while and gave a welcome boost during a lull in the proceedings
We didn't escape the local plod, who required some serious palm greasing to stop them carting Penny away in irons.
 So a successful day was had by all.

Just the WH Smith York signings on 26th Nov to go now (12-2pm Coney Street and 2.30-4.30pm Monks Cross Shopping Centre), oh and the WH Smith Scarborough one on the 3rd Dec. Ah, wait, I'm pretty sure there's a signing in WH Smith Harrogate on the 10th Dec too. Yes. And I fear there may also be another signing at Adam's WH Smith, Prospect Centre, Hull store on the 17th Dec... then we can relax.... until Christmas....

Thanks for reading.

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Sunday, 20 November 2011

First of all, we got a puppy!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may we cordially introduce you to our latest addition... Milly.
This is Milly with her previous owner, a breeder in Howden

 So we finally bit the bullet and got a dog. A wonderful and astonishingly trainable puppy, Milly. Although she can be a little protective of her food currently.

MY horrible dry dog food!

Fun in the garden, lots of gravel to eat and trees to worry

A little greedy with toys, one is never enough

Oh, and partial to a little 'owner's eye' on occasion

That's Milly for now. She appears to be getting leggier and stockier by the day. We've had her 3 weeks now and she's already outgrown her first collar. She is the UK breed and comes from a long line of working dogs so I'm sure we've got lots of fun to come. The vet tells us she could reach 46Kgs (Around 7 stone).

She is currently 7 Kg and frankly a bit of a handful already. Still, with a steady will, a strong lead and Victoria Stilwell's amazing dog training advice, I think we're going to be just fine.

And she gets so stupidly fussy around mum and dad too. The cat's not so keen thus far but is definitely still the animal kingpin of the farm. I suppose she may, in time, grow to hate Milly slightly less than she does now (all we can ask for now).

Ok, I'm off telescoping the heavens. Enjoy everyone!

Woo hoo!

Ever since I was a small boy, walking out into my grandmother's garden with my Uncle John to see Halley's Comet, I have been in love with the universe and everything therein.

My dream to be able to afford my own telescope was finally realised thanks to my wonderful and incredibly thoughtful wife.

The Telescope she bought me is a second-hand SkyWatcher 130mm Reflector with a box of bits I thought were peripherals that came with the original scope.

It turns out that, although the original lens and battery powered tracking motors were in the box, the gentleman who we bought it from also put in three further lenses, each producing eye wateringly larger images, and a power supply so that you don't need to use batteries.

I now intend to invest a little more cash to buy a camera mount for it so look out for some amateur astrophotography coming soon.

Until then, you'll just have to be happy with pics of the scope itself.

Top view showing viewer to right, red-spot finder on top and view down to primary mirror

I am fighting the urge to scratch 'Dan's' above this...

The stats are; D-130mm, F-650mm

My telescope came with tripod and auto-tracking motors including a track feature that (with a little adjustment) will automatically keep the object of interest in the viewer. Fantastic. I can't wait for the deep winter nights. Thus far I have only had really spectacular results whilst looking at the moon. The original lens gave me a lovely, full view of the moon. I fitted the next lens and achieved some great results as the whole viewscreen was filled. The third of the lenses gave the most amazing result so far. I focused the scope on the moon's north pole and could see incredibly crisp craters through the viewer. It was, by now, filling the whole of the eyepiece with approximately a quarter of the moon's face.

Very excited by this, I decided to hunt through the box and paperwork to see if I could crisp up the image any further. It was here I got my nicest surprise of all. The gentleman had also put a Barlow lens, which had been lost in my child like tearing open of the box, in with all the other stuff. It's a X2 Barlow lens and yes, you guessed it, it doubles the magnification of anything you've got already and fits in-line with any lens that you are using!

I really must get that camera mount, I can't wait to publish some of my pics.

And so to astronomy. I feel so lucky that we don't live near a big city. The sky is so crisp here in winter. And a special thank you to Uncle John, without whom I wouldn't have this life-long love.

Until then...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Hello everybody!

Back again after a very exciting few days.

My birthday was shared with Gabi's beautiful God-daughter Alex in Melton Mowbray.

We travelled around a fair bit and saw some lovely places such as Stamford, a medieval town that is best described as a micro-york.

It has a wonderful centrepiece in this... erm... I suppose spike?
The spike is around 2 feet wide at the base

It's covered in these beautiful engravings

Although small, around 30 feet, it makes a beautiful centrepiece to the town

Now to the birthday girl, Alex. 
Happy Birthday!
 We were wandering around Stamford after stopping to admire the central spire and found ourselves being brought back around to the same place via lots of lovely, cobbly, twisty streets. I commented to Alex that here was 'another spike' and we continued.
Later we returned to a lovely pub that, coincidentally, was right next to the spike and I said to Alex 'Hey look, that's three spikes we've seen today'. She replied, 'silly Uncle, that's the same one as before, there's only TWO spikes here!' I asked her what was the difference between the first and second. She said, after reverentially surveying the area, 'hmm, the second one had less shops.' Bless her little cottons.

And I'd be in real trouble if I didn't give mention to little Philip, Alex's younger brother, who has a birthday in the next few weeks.
Philip, who is a very polite boy... usually

Some of you may remember these kids from our wedding. Although they did spend most of the time racing around at top speed so if any of you remember a couple of shock blonde streaks passing by, that was probably them.

After parking in Stamford, we mooched around a huge antique store and was very tempted, although fiscally incapable, of buying a large proportion of their stock.

So onwards to Stamford. We found a lovely restored 14th Century church with some amazing carvings.
The wall tops (battlements?) look almost art deco in style
Me and the kids decided that this was a 'famous dead guy'
Presumably the final resting place of the inventor of rolltop, claw footed baths?
The rest of Stamford is beautiful too, and a lot is set around the amazing River Welland.
We checked guys, a small 2 bedroom on the river comes in at around 400k, but thanks for having the same thought as we did
This passageway in particular made me think of York. I wonder if people of York see something there and think of Stamford?
So after a wonderful few days away we headed home loaded with presents of cheese (of course), lovely memories and, in my lucky case, the most stinking flu I've had in years...
Back home to find somebody had stolen the crops
And replaced them with mud and stones... rural crime, know the dangers...

 Ok so that's it for now. But before I go... (HONK HONK! Shameless self promotion warning)

We have just stuck a load of books on Ebay so if you know any Pratchett or Rowling fans, point them our way please.

Our books link, click here!

Cheers. Hope everyone is well and happy out there in the world (thinks... what a wonderfully wide spread family we are!)

Blog soon I hope,

D and G x

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Latest windswept Lilac Tree news

Me battling with canvas... the canvas won.

Our Sue and Col inspired home gallery (part of)

More pics and a new lamp

Even more pics

My secret door contraption made from a bell cast, a lathe spool and a large wheel procurred from a washing machine.

Tunisian rug and, strangely, a pool cue.

New and old in the new dining room.

Our new unit, doubling the space in our kitchen

The orchids new home (we've bought two more since)

Unmissable moon scape, I couldn't resist.

Before the gusts began

Battling the elements

If only pictures could portray the ominous creaking noises...

Apart from dead wood, all survived the Hurricane Katia remnants

Although the wind-vane cum tv ariel did not.
Hi everyone. A pretty boring picture filled blog this time as we are incredibly busy with Penny's book launches (all three paperbacks out in mid-november. See, house renovations, gardening, painting, paperwork and various other time consuming monsters.

Hopefully, we'll win quite soon and we can start blogging more regularly.

Lots of love to all our dear readers until the next post,

The Lilac Tree Posse.