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Month: December 2012

Meat – A Backstory

Meat – A Backstory

I think if I asked most people where their meat comes from they’d say ‘the supermarket’.  That’s fair enough and when people lead such busy lives with so many demands on them, sourcing food any other way can feel like a huge hurdle.  But raising our own meat has driven home something that we already ‘knew’ but didn’t know, deep down.  Our meat comes from a living animal.

When we eat that meat we eat what has been a living being, a creature who walked the earth.  For some that realisation leads to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, for others it means sourcing ethically raised meat from their local area; for us it meant creating a farm and raising animals to feed ourselves and others.

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These days when I cook or preserve our meat I’m aware of a very different feeling within myself.  I no longer see this simply as ‘food’, I approach it with a much greater sense of reverence and thrift.  When I rub in the curing mix that turns our pork magically into bacon I feel almost meditative.  I’m reminded of the animals we cared for and loved over the spring and summer months, I look forward to raising pigs again and bask in the memories of green pastures and hot summer days.

When I cook a chicken I am committed to using the animal fully, wasting as little as is possible.  If we roast the bird (giving us 2 days of meat for 4 people) we then strip the darker meat and use it for a stew or a stir fry/curry (another 2/3 meals for adults or more for children).  Then I use the carcass to make a stock, this is something of a 2-3 day event as I aim to draw as much goodness out of the bones as possible making the broth deep in nourishment.

When the stock is suitably thick and rich I often then cook it down again to make a thick jelly that can be used as a concentrate and has the added advantage of taking up less space in the fridge!  This can be added to green beans, rice, stews, soups, gravy…anywhere that you’d use a stock cube really.  Then the bones are stripped again (including bits we don’t eat like the neck and wings) and Winnie benefits from a good dose of meat and bone in her diet.

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This kind of thrift used to be taken for granted and not just on farms or in rural settings.  All kitchens, big and small, were units of production and economy. What we now throw in our recycling bin would once have been sold to the rag and bone man generating income for the family, nothing would have been wasted.

While I can never lay claim to producing no waste (we still buy things from the store and they come in packages) we have dramatically reduced our food waste since we moved onto the farm.  Our animals take up quite a lot of the slack, with veggies going to the chickens and grateful dogs receiving meat scraps and bones!  But we also endeavour to create a menu that uses all of the meat thriftily and with as much respect as we can give it.

It may seem cruel or heartless to some people that we raise up animals, know and care for them, then send them to slaughter.  And I admit it is not always an easy process, I’ve shed a few tears as we’ve sent animals to be ‘finished’ at the slaughter house.  But the truth is I’d rather have it this way, I’d rather know the life my animals, and my family lead.  I’d rather know where each piece of meat has come from, what’s gone into the processing and know that there has been as little waste as possible, honouring the life that created our food.

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Each meal, each piece of an animal that we consume has a life attached to it, has a story.   That’s the bare truth that many ignore or would simply rather not think about. But it is crucial for the health of our food chain, our children and for the animals themselves that we don’t turn a blind eye to the conditions most animals are raised and slaughtered in.  When we make a conscious choice buy as ethically as we can, use the meat as thriftily as we can and treat the meat with the respect and care it deserves we are active participants in making our homes, our diets and our nation’s farms better, healthier and more nourishing than ever before.  That is the story I want to be a part of.

Christmas

Christmas

It was bliss.

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Plenty to eat, much of it from our own farm, time to play, time to rest.  We’ve really been enjoying our family time, even managing to squeeze in some quiet hours for Mummy and Daddy while the children play.  Tomorrow the snow is coming in and I have a special project in mind;  another day of just being together with no special plans.  What could be better.

Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday to you wherever you are.

Winter Solstice 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

We started the day with bacon sandwiches (our home grown bacon), watching the snow falling heavily outside.  It has continued to fall through the day, the edges of the world becoming plump and round and the thick flakes snuggle on top of one another.  The day is slipping by in pleasant normality, not an apocalypse in sight.  This is our second December living here, but to me it feels like the first.

solstice2012-7291solstice2012-7275 solstice2012-7279 solstice2012-7282On days like this I’m grateful for many things, here are a few:

– A chap who knows how to clear driveways and a new and improved slightly ancient tractor;

– Silly dogs who make me laugh;

– Children being able to spend the day making a ‘snow wall’ outside, life skills at work;

– A truly beautiful bouquet of flowers, sent from my Dad, that are perfuming the kitchen as I sit here writing.

I haven’t ventured out much, a little walk around to check on the chickens (they are resolutely NOT coming out of their cosy coop) and then some supervising as Stephen tries out our ‘on loan’ snow blower (the snow is too wet it would seem).  I’m glad to have a warm house to cosy up in and nowhere that I have to be.

solstice2012-7286 solstice2012-7292 solstice2012-7293 solstice2012-7296 solstice2012-7301 solstice2012-7304The boys are in the bath (actually now I think of it they’ve been there for about an hour now I come to think of it…), Stephen is ploughing the drive and I’m taking the chance for a sneaky and actually hot cup of tea at the kitchen counter.  We have nothing major planned for today, just being together feels like a wonderful celebration all on it’s own.  It’s been quite a year here at the farm, a year of discovery and challenge and lots of work.  I’m looking forward to another one…after a little bit of a rest that is.  Tea anyone?

Gentle

Gentle

The last few days we’ve been at home with a poorly little boy who needed lots of love and attention.  We’ve been up and down these last three nights, sometimes hourly, tending to him as he fights off a bit of a virus.  Though I can’t claim to enjoy waking up 10 times a night or having a poorly child, I have, in my heart, simply felt lucky to have the opportunity to hold him close.

I’m seeing life through a different lens this week.

gentle-7260 gentle-7261 gentle-7262These last few days I’ve been so conscious of my good fortune in having those I love close to hand.  I’ve enjoyed just being with them, hanging out on the sofa watching whatever shows the poorly one requested.  Today we’re starting to see the back of the sickness but I’m still inclined to keep this mood going.

I’ve spent a lot of time in thought these last days, as I know so many have, reflecting on all sorts of things.  The main realisation I’ve had is that I really enjoy being with my boys each day.  That probably sounds obvious, but recently I’ve been feeling a bit weary and ready for a break.  Now I see that the break isn’t from my family, from my life, but from the wider world.

gentle-7256 gentle-7257 gentle-7263 gentle-7265So today has just been a gentle day of early baths, tidying, laundry, eating meals.  Nothing earth shattering and yet it seems like the warmest kind of bliss.  I made up a big batch of ‘snow’ for the boys to play with and sat in the kitchen listening too their crazy giggles, knowing they were ignoring my ‘don’t get it everywhere’ rule and not caring a jot.

I know truly and with sincerity of heart, that this is all I could ever dream of in life.  These people, every day, finding our way.  I’m grateful, so intensely grateful, for the chance.

No Words

No Words

I have no words that can make sense of the madness that happened yesterday, no one does.  I feel, like everyone does, shocked, horrified, saddened and angry.  I feel like I was in some kind of accident and my nerve endings are still buzzing with the shock, my mind is a little numb, a little slow.

I find myself having to step away from it a little, I am grateful that I can.  When I think like that I feel tears for those who cannot step away, for whom reality has been forever changed.  There is no silver lining, no good side, this is one of those things that can never be turned around.

So, like everyone else on the fringes of this tragedy, I’m focusing my mind on how lucky I am.  I’m holding my boys a little tighter, a little longer, I’m giving in to a few more requests for cookies, I’m pulling them into inexplicable hugs at inexplicable moments.  I’m thanking all the gods that exist that they are here with me, that I can hold them, smell them, love them.  I’m trying not to let them see the sadness that we are all carrying around like a cloud.

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I don’t think the sadness will every really be gone, I don’t think we’ll ever forget what has happened.  I really don’t think any of us should.

Radical…moi?

Radical…moi?

I’ve been re-reading the excellent book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes recently, I’ve read it before but that was prior to us moving here and doing some more of the activities she talks about in her book.  Reading it with fresh eyes (and with the perspective of new experiences) gave the book a much sharper resonance for me and has brought up questions that I have no real answers to but still can’t shake off thinking about.

One of the things I come back to over and over is, are we really so radical?  Ok, yes, I know not everyone raises their own animals for meat or has the space for a largish flock of chickens, but not all of the people that Shannon Hayes interviews and discusses in her book do either.  Each person or family that she looks at has a unique approach to their lives but with one common thread that connects them all, produce rather than consume.

This core idea is one that I grew up with, so it doesn’t seem alien to me.  My Mum knit and sewed for us, made stuffed animals and clothing, she learned to make jewellery, made teddy bears, iced cakes and a million other little decorative touches around the home, that just seemed a part of her.  My Dad was always busy, he participated in lots of sports, gardened, took us on mammoth bike rides, grew flowers, tomatoes, whatever took his fancy.  If jobs needed doing Dad generally did it, painting, hanging wallpaper, redecorating old bikes to make them new.  People (or at least all the people we knew) didn’t have much money for extras so they did things themselves.

When I met Stephen he was at the end of an Mechanical Engineering degree, so it’s safe to say he’s a pretty handy chap.  As well as being able to turn his hand to computer shenanigans, he could also garden, redecorate, put up shelves, cook, assemble ikea furniture and generally make himself useful around the place.  When I met his parents I found that his Dad was a genius carpenter who could make furniture, do plumbing, electrics and actually built his own house; his Mum is an accomplished knitter, used to sew clothing to sell and makes a cupcake to fight over.

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When I look around at the people I know they can all ‘do’ something, they all create and produce something for themselves.  My sister cooks, sews, quilts and still manages to hold down a sensible job, my friends are all creative people making a vast array of wonderful things; I wonder to myself, isn’t everyone like this?  How can it be called ‘radical’ when everyone is doing it already?

But then I realised that I needed to stick my head a little outside of my bubble.  I know that I do live in a bit of a world of my own making.  My family are all great, my friends are lovely, caring individuals, I live in a place I love and spend my time online reading the blogs of other people with similar interests; it is easy for me to think this is the whole world.  But when I accidentally slip out of my bubble and onto the hard pavement of reality I see a very different world.

Recently we had the misfortune of needing to be at the children’s hospital for a good few hours, the tv’s there run ‘children’s’ tv the whole time and I became morbidly fascinated.  Was this really what young people were watching?  These glossy people who seem to do nothing but gossip, get into silly conundrums and unkind badinage?  I restrict my kids to certain selections from netflix and prechosen documentaries and movies so we’re not used to the barrage of advertising that comes with mainstream media, after 5 minutes my brain hurt.  After several hours my heart did too.

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It seems there is always something to buy, something else you need, another smell, another car another…something.  It’s ok to say ‘stupid’ a lot, being mean to other people is funny and casual cruelty and bullying are to be expected.  No one makes anything, loves anything, which is in direct contradiction with the people, young and old, that I know.  The world depicted by the media is shiny, glossy, terrifying and…empty.

I know this is nothing new, this is common knowledge, but it makes me realise why the title of Shannon Haye’s book is so appropriate.  It is, in our culture at this time, a radical statement to say ‘no I won’t buy it, I’ll make it’.  To take control of one’s consumption, to decide what items are not ok, to eliminate the cultural elements that we don’t like.  Instead of being dictated to by the mystical forces of advertising and the media, we can instead turn inwards and find our own journey, our own voice.

I don’t think that making bread, or yoghurt, or jam is an earth shattering thing; I don’t think that staying at home to raise my children is a radical decision.  From being a teenager I have considered myself to be a feminist and always believed that position simply meant, valuing the female mind as unique and worth listening to.  I didn’t think it meant only one type of path, one view of what I could be, quite the opposite in fact.  So when I decided to step away from a career outside the home and instead pursue a life within it, it just seemed like another decision.  It was the same decision my Mum made when I was born, it seemed a pretty natural way to live to me.

Yet when I look around outside of my bubble, I don’t see stay at home Mums being represented in a positive or realistic way.  Mum’s are either 1) filmy, beautiful creatures who’ve been no nearer a real child than I have to Jupiter or 2) terminally pissed off.  Now I have my moments of frustration for sure but I do want to be at home with my children, a decision that seems at odds with how I’m ‘supposed’ to see myself.  I’m getting pretty tired of seeing female characters in films and on tv shows making the same predictable ‘I don’t cook’ remarks when they are being depicted as strong and clever.  Apparently to be strong and clever you must reject anything associated with a kitchen and in fact reject a certain amount of independence.

Because that is what happens when you learn these skills.  When you cook instead of heating up something inside a plastic package, when you make some jam instead of relying upon the frankly unreliable labeling of superstore foods, when you even grow something yourself on a plot of land or in a small pot on a window ledge.  Each act of do-it-yourself leads to a feeling of independence and confidence, it leads to a sense of self reliance and, perhaps, a greater willingness to perceive the flaws in the status quo.  When you are less reliant on a system it becomes easier and less frightening to see it’s limitations and dangers.

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Perhaps that is what makes it radical to turn one’s attention inwards, to develop skills and spend time on projects not purchases.  To be sure we buy things, more than we would like at times, but most of those things are tools so that we can make something else.  Fencing for animals, canning supplies, a big silver tarp.  We are still ‘plugged in’ to the economy but we are taking control of our home at the most basic level.  We control much of our food, we control our exposure to the culture outside our door, we set our values and try to pursue them in our everyday life.

Shannon Hayes talks in her book about the increasing feeling of distance that can occur when people step off the ‘mainstream’ and start beating a path of their own.

“Those who choose to align their lives with their values typically experience a sense of isolation from anyone else whose outlook is defined by conventional cultural codes.  David Korten explains that people who transition may even occasionally feel like creatures from outer space.”  p 243, Radical Homemakers

For me that isn’t about distance from my nearest and dearest (unless you count the physical distance which is profound) but just about a sense of distance from the culture around me.  I see messages spinning past me, things I know I’m supposed to care about or be engaged with that I’m just not.  In fact I am beginning to view the more ‘mainstream’ culture as alien, while I feel more and more rooted in my own sense of truth.

If it is radical to close my door to the eternal noise and chatter of the world then I suppose I am, if it is radical to want to cook, make and spend time with my family then I definitely am.  This is not the only path I could have taken, nor is it the only ‘moral’ or ‘good’ road, I think we get into seriously tricky territory when we start making those kinds of definitions.  But what I notice, and respect, in lives that I admire, is a commitment to a goal, a choice that is being made.  If instead we allow ourselves to be buffeted and defined by the shifting winds of ‘society’, if we never make choices for ourselves, always assuming that because something is ubiquitous is must therefore be benign, then can we be surprised when eventually and inevitably, we end up ship wrecked?

Rush Rush Stop

Rush Rush Stop

This week has been a funny one, it seems to have been a split of relaxing and being slow with rushing and being busy!  Some of it is great busy like our lovely  science club, some of it is necessary busy with dentist appointments, hair cuts and errands. Overall, though, I feel that we are generally winding down towards Christmas.  There is less ‘work’ on our calendar and more events, a christmas craft day with friends, an outing to a heritage estate for traditional christmas fun; connecting with friends before and during the holidays, all good stuff.

In between all that I’m trying to be a bit more present with the boys at home, to shed guilt and worry about ‘doing enough’ and just spend a bit of silly time with them.

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When I think back to my own special memories of Christmas they are of little, silly moments with my Mum and sister, when we were on holidays and just hanging around together.  She’d always do a big clean before the holiday and would have War of the Worlds blasting out, I don’t know how old I was when I finally told her it scared the pants off me!  Even when I was little I didn’t want to spoil her energy and enjoyment, as it turned out she just laughed, we laughed together.

I remember distinctly putting up the tree when I was about Huwyl’s age, I was jumping around the house in a net curtain making my Mum and sister laugh.  The joy of the freedom of it all is what made that memory sharp and immediate for me, all these years later.  The smell of my Dad walking through the door at night, the scent of fresh air clinging to his big air force duffel coat, showing him the tree we had decorated.

Those are the kinds of memories I want the boys to have.  Silly times with us all smooshed on the sofa eating popcorn and watching truly terrible Christmas movies!  To my adult brain these hours seem a little purposeless, but I know in my heart these are the times they enjoy the most, these are the memories they’ll treasure.

hanging out-7195hanging out-7197 hanging out-7198And these are the moments to treasure because, well, they are growing up right in front of my eyes.  My teeny baby is becoming a young man, all rangy limbs and bouncy thoughts; and my teeniest one is catching him up pretty fast too, no longer a little toddling thing but a person with thoughts to share.  It’s all going by so fast.

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I have all my lovely Christmas school resources lined up, but I know in my heart we’ll be working on them after the festive season is over; a nice way to stretch this season out.  For now is the time of days that drift into one another, gentle hours of just being a normal family, punctuated by the busyness that we wouldn’t want to be without.  I know there are things we could be learning about right now but I’m satisfied just watching them, soaking them up.  These years will be gone in the blink of an eye and I really don’t want to miss them.

 

 

 

Old Fashioned Christmas

Old Fashioned Christmas

On Thursday night I was out and about, picking up a gift that I’d found on kijiji (such a great resource for me this year!) when I decided to buy a bath mat.  A simple enough thing to do one might think.  And there was a shop called Bed, Bath and Beyond nearby so I stopped in.  About 15 minutes later I left, with a bath mat, but in the throes of a panic attack.

Now I’ve never been a massive lover of crowds or closed in spaces but I was really surprised by my reaction.  I was shaking, my breathing was restricted and I felt overwhelmed and upset.  It seems a bit over the top (to me anyway) but there was just too much for my brain and nervous system to process.  There were ‘goods’ everywhere, piled as high as the ceiling and many items that seems to have no definable purpose for being in the world.  Among the very pleasing practical items such as towels and kitchenware were all sorts of strange gadgets and…well…stuff.  

The fact that I was surrounded by things that I couldn’t identify, that seemed to have no real worth (despite the price tag) got me feeling upset and, honestly, angry.  I know there has to be stuff in the world, I enjoy partaking of it myself, but in that shop alone there seemed to be enough redundant junk to fill a landfill on it’s own.  I can’t claim to live a life filled only with what is necessary but compared to the profligacy of that one store we live in a convent.

The perfect antidote to all this came just the next morning in the form of a homeschool trip to Cumberland Heritage Museum, about 1/2 an hour east of us.  It is a village set in the 1930’s and right now they are celebrating the festive season!  We enjoyed a wagon ride around the town singing christmas songs, a trip to Santa’s workshop to make  wooden toys and a visit with the big man himself.  He could be found in an armchair in a cosy little house, friendly and welcoming to all the children.

cumberland-7128 cumberland-7131 cumberland-7132 cumberland-7135The boys absolutely loved it all, making the toys, meeting Father Christmas and sharing time with their friends.  The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly but we didn’t feel rushed or too busy.  The children all packed into the giant wooden sleigh, pulled by giant wooden reindeer, as excited as any child would have been 90 years ago when these houses were first built.

I had several other mums comment to me how much they enjoyed Huwyl’s enthusiasm and joy throughout the day.  He was, at 7 years, one of the older children, yet he suffers from none of the ennui that so many children are already displaying at his age.  He sang with gusto, threw himself into each activity and watched Father Christmas with as much wonder and excitement as any of the younger ones.  I feel so proud of his gentle soul.

cumberland-7144 cumberland-7157 cumberland-7153cumberland-7116As Father Christmas spoke to the children a little voice piped up, “I’ve got something for you!”  Neirin had brought some coins from home and gave them to the big man in red, the hearts of all the mamas (especially this one) melted.

Despite the cold the children ran and played with gusto.  We all sat around an outdoor fire drinking hot chocolate and listening to a christmas story, told without props but with great skill by one of the museum staff.  Even though our official visit was over some of us stayed by that fire, talking and catching up while the children played with whatever they could find.  Mostly they populated their world with their imaginations, running themselves ragged with the joy of just being able to play

cumberland-7185 cumberland-7183 cumberland-7159The homes in the village are simple but so welcoming it is hard to remember that no one lives in them anymore.  I had the urge to settle down in an armchair and share a cup of tea or read quietly.  It reminded me that a few simple touches are all it takes to make a home feel festive.  After all, it isn’t the decorations or even the gifts that make Christmas, but the time we spend together, enjoying the company of our family and friends.

Big Jo And The Aisle of Doom

Big Jo And The Aisle of Doom

For the past month, I’ve been trying my best to get everything ready for winter. I’m not exactly sure what that really means in the country, but I’m pretty sure something important needs to be done. Back in the suburbs it was taking down the mosquito screens, tidying up the garden a bit and getting the furnace checked. Out here, I’ve got a gargantuan pile of uncut wood stacked accusingly beside the house which despite my fervent expectation, hasn’t been cut and split by ninjas in a surprise guerilla assault before dawn. It’s kind of important I get most of it done before the snow arrives since we’ve recently fitted a rather expensive Empyre Elite Wood Gasification Boiler to run all our heating and hot water. It ignites a jet of super heated smoke to 2000F and is in every possible way, one of the coolest pieces of kit we’ve bought. If you have a penis, you have to see this thing in action.

If that was all that was on my Prepare For Snowmageddon list it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, I’ve got to grease my machines, top up oil, get the tractor repaired with a new alternator (Nelson The Farming Man to the rescue), bush hog the bottom field (not going to happen), paint almost every room in the house and perhaps, finally, begin fitting out my Brew House but only once I’ve fitted some shelves and worktops in the laundry room. Oh, and made some book shelves for the library.

But the most pressing task of all was to plough the field. This year we started from scratch and to not beat about the bush (sorry for the pun), it was a monumental pain in the arse trying to cut through years of accumulated weeds and trash. I chose Bonus Field for our vegetable plot (so named because we didn’t realise it was ours when we purchased the land) because it seemed to be the most “tame” of our fields. Unfortunately, the weeds weren’t ready to surrender. Stallone-style, if they were going down, it wasn’t without a fight and we grudgingly agreed to call it a score draw in September and say no more about it.

Next year I was determined would be different. Like the A-Team getting ready to tackle the bad guy, I would Be Prepared, even if that involved welding metal plates to a 1984 Dodge Caravan and scouting out the neighbour’s pastures for signs of a small town gangster hideout.

In particular, I really wanted to have the field ploughed and ideally seeded with a green cover crop. White clover sounds like the business and was my crop of choice, but first I had to tidy up the aftermath of my vegetables.

It shouldn’t have been a hard job. There’s maybe a half-acre to turn over and considering I have a 6′ heavy duty rotary tiller attached to George The Tractor, you wouldn’t have been beaten for expecting the task to be no more than an enjoyable afternoon’s work. Oh, how you’d be wrong.

It all started to go awry with the hay bale. We’d used hay in the summer to mulch between the 274 tomato plants and strike a devastating blow to the weeds in that zone. It worked like a charm but unfortunately, I wasn’t vigilant enough and the kids constructed a “ninja spider’s web to catch the coyotes and samurai” from sticks and baler twine. Of course I’d cleared it up and gathered the twine before setting out with the tiller, or at least that’s what I thought. The tiller found the hidden twine, span it around the shaft and tied everything up tighter than a Belgian’s money belt. I had my back turned to make the corner at the edge of the field and didn’t see what was happening until the smell of burning clutch and plumes of smoke illuminated me to the fact that I had in fact, just toasted my slip clutch. Bugger.

After giving it a chance to cool down and doing my best to unwind the twine, I tried again but the clutch wasn’t having any of it. One circuit later and it was smoking once more like a blues singer in Paris. Another cool down and on the third attempt the blades wouldn’t even spin when they hit the soil. I was pretty sure all that was required was a bit of tightening of the bolts on the clutch, but how tight should they be? The farmer answer is apparently, not clear. Tight enough to work, not too tight that the slip doesn’t slip. Really helpful.

Then when I tried to tighten the bolts, I discovered my 3/8″ socket spanner was bust. In fairness, it was a cheapo from Canadian Tire bought many years ago and by rights it should have crumbled to dust when used on anything except my son’s bike. But it meant a trip into Winchester to find a replacement. I discovered that Winchester Home Hardware actually doesn’t really do much in the way of hardware. Their tool section is even more pathetic than my own. So, I tried MDG which is apparently where the world’s tools all go to die. Staffed by lobotomized automatons all with suspiciously similar facial appearance and one-syllable names, I was astonished to find what I needed in a dusty cupboard at the back. To be honest, when I was being taken there, I did for a moment wonder if there was a white-coated outcast doctor waiting for me with a syringe and a smile and my fight or flee instinct was certainly aroused.

Instead, Bob From Aisle 4 guided me to the cupboard which was open.

“Huh, shouldn’t be open,” remarked Bob with a shrug before shuffling away.

“Shouldn’t be open,” echoed a leaden voice behind me and involuntarily hunching against the jab of a syringe any second, I came face to face with Big Jo From Aisle 12B. To say she was ugly would be an insult to all Belgians. In the words of Dylan Moran, she looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. Big Jo eyed me suspiciously for a moment, weighing up whether the offense of Cupboard Opening Without The Proper Permit could be levelled on me and made to stick. As her remaining neurons feebly fired with the speed of continental drift, she must have come to the conclusion that it was best to just ignore the whole thing and shuffle on.

I found what I needed and tried not to flee in too undignified a manner. My walk to the cash machine probably resembled a 10 year old making for a monster water slide: an ungainly combination of walk-don’t-run-boy and the famous bottom-run (characteristic loping gait of miscreants everywhere, used exclusively for trying to escape parents wielding a slipper. There are no recorded instances of it being successful). I practically hurled my debit card at Amy The Cashier In Lane 3 and relaxed only when Winchester was dwindling in my rear view mirror.

Fortunately, the trauma of my MDG experience was worth it. The spanner did the job perfectly and with newly tightened slip clutch, I was able to complete another pass on Bonus Field. It’s not as neat as I’d like, but compared to where we were last year, it’s a million percent better. One job down, a lot left to do. Here’s hoping for Christmas Chainsaw Ninjas…