A Dandily One

Dandelions in the vegetable patch are a nuisance, but in the lawn, they are a delight to see. For me anyway. They bloom soon after snowdrops and narcissuses and continue to do so well into the fall. Thus they are an important source of food for bees, butterflies, and all other kinds of pollinators.

This is not the first dandelion of this year in my garden, but it is the first one with multiple blossoms opening at once. Unfortunately, there were no insects to be seen anywhere right now, although I did see bumblebee queens scouting the garden for nesting places.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Spider Justice

It’s a fabulous shot from the camera of Avalus, who says

PZ’s post (Pharyngula) https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2021/04/07/spider-deaths/ reminded me of a photo I took last weekend.

Tiny spider eats really big spider, somehow this really surprised me. I wonder how she was caught. The photo does not really give the bulk of the prey justice.

©Avalus, All rights reserved

That’s a great capture, Avalus. I apologize for the delay in posting it.

Tiny Vegetable Patch Inspectors

The inspectors are tiny, not the vegetable patch. That is quite huge (over 40 square meters). It took me 1 hour to plow it all and that knocked me out for two days. Now I am breaking the dirt lumps and making the beds for the veggies which I expect to keep me busy for a week. Last year we had only one huge patch with potatoes, this year it will be split into several small ones for peas, onions, beans, and cucumbers.

And today when I had my lunch break, several small birds came to inspect my handiwork and feast on earthworms and insects brought to the surface – the redstarts are back, a sure sign that spring has really begun. These birds never come to the feeder, they are strict insectivores and they really enjoy the vegetable patches after the rain or when the surface is disturbed.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I assume that these are all black redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros, because those I usually see around here. But there might be some common redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus among these four pictures this time or even all of them. These are all females and those are hard to distinguish, species-wise, for me. Today was one of the rare instances when I have also seen male common redstart, but he, unfortunately, whooshed before I got him into focus.

Kites are Back and Tempting Again

Red kites returned from their winter vacation south and are circling our house daily. Regularly staying in one place just long enough that I manage to fetch my camera, but not long enough to take a picture. So this is a so-so picture from a few weeks ago. I also hear daily their typical cries, so even when I do not see them, I know they’re there, somewhere.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Tits in Front of my Window

Not my window, but rather a window belonging to Avalus, who says,

Now I can finally make a tit-joke posting.
The pair just would not want to get close enough to each other. Cute little critters they are.
Also, a blackbird got in on the action.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

Teacher’s Corner: Sacrificing our kids to Covid

Remember when last year large parts of Europe, who thanks to quick and strict measures got relatively well through the first Covid wave shook their heads in horror at Trump’s science denial and his complete refusal to act? Well, now it’s time for the rest of you to have some pity on us. Germany has been on varying stages of pseudo-lockdown since October. With the second wave peaking around Christmas and over 1.000 deaths a day ion January, it happened exactly what scientists said would happen: the second wave hit hard, in all areas, and since our politicians refused to act quickly, it got a lot worse than it had to be. From that point on we’ve been in an unbearable state: Our private life is severely restricted. At some part it was illegal for Mr and me to enter my parents’ house at the same time when bringing them groceries. But there are zero restrictions on workplaces, and schools reopened three weeks before the Easter holidays, but at least only with half size classes and rotation. And we keep going…

One of the ways we’re measuring the spread of Covid is the 7 days incidence value. I’m not sure if that is used everywhere, so let me quickly explain: It tells you how many people on average got Covid during the last 7 days out of 100.000 and is seen as a key value, together with the R-value (how many people does one person infect). Last year, an incidence above 50 meant that an area was a high risk area. With the new mutants, especially the highly contagious British variant B117, some time in February our politicians decided that we needed to get below 35, which was a goal supported by scientists. then they noticed that we won’t reach 35 until we implement some really strict measures, especially in offices and factories, and they abandoned the goal. and much like in the USA, each Ministerpräsident*in decided they knew better, usually by implementing less measures than they actually agreed on.

Schools and daycare have always been central in these discussions. under the guise of “child welfare” they are kept open to the last possible minute, when actually the issue is that we provide “free” childcare so mum and dad can go working and catch Covid in an open plan office. Don’t get me wrong, this school year basically didn’t happen in terms of learning. I’m fully aware of the many issues that come with closing down schools, in terms of learning, in terms of providing structure, in terms of child welfare. I’m also fully aware of the alternatives and they are worse. they are literally killing our children and their parents.

At the start of the pandemic we saw huge infection rates and deaths among the elderly, and people, mostly politicians, claimed that children didn’t get Covid, and if they did, they weren’t infectious. Once they could no longer deny that children do get Covid, the next lies were that it’s harmless for children (7% get Long Covid!) and that they also didn’t catch it in school, but at home. I don’t know how this must have felt for the two of my colleagues whose children did catch it at school and one of whom infected his mum who has been in  hospital or a couple of months now. It makes me fucking angry. All those bullshit lies are crumbling down, of course, so the new idea is to simply ignore children and families.

The new plan of the federal government is that the “all is well” incidence is 100, which is already three times the number we agreed on at the start of the year. But for schools to close down completely, the number must be 200. If you now say “that’s horrible, that’ll kill people”, I’m afraid I haven’t even hit you with the worst of it. As said before, that number is calculated on 100.000 inhabitants, but 100.000 regardless of how many people are already vaccinated. Even those who only received one shot are largely removed from the battle field as long as they keep up with the rest of the measures. This means that currently the number in Germany is actually per 80.000 unvaccinated people. Therefore an incidence of 100 is actually more like 120. With vaccination finally progressing, this will shift more and more. Now, who’s the largest group that currently has a zero percent vaccination rate and has to meet many people every day? Yep, children and adolescents, and it’s already showing:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This shows the incidence of kids between 5 and 14, the deeper the blue, the higher the incidence value. In my county, that incidence is 421, while the overall incidence is “just” 183 and doesn’t trigger any measures now and will not trigger any measures should the federal “emergency break*” be enacted. By the end of summer, an incidence just below hundred over all age groups could mean 600-800 among school kids. Of course they carry the virus home and many parents will also be in the last group to be vaccinated as they tend to be younger and healthier. With the wild type, isolation within the home was often good enough to protect the other family members. With B117, if one person gets it, everybody in the family gets it, thus putting kids and parents at risk. Some of those parents will die, just like it happened in New York, where thousands of kids lost a parent. And all of this is done in the name of “child welfare”.

Oh, and our government has asked us all to put a candle in the window to honour the Covid deaths. maybe they shouldn’t ask us to set things on fire right now?

The Gardening

As you may remember, we had some (did I say “some”) work done on our garden two years ago, which left the slopes left and right to the stairs in shambles. The effort I’d made towards terracing the left hand side (seen from the garden) was undone. Last year we spent spring with building a small plateau on the right hand side where we want to put up a lamp, a project that got mostly postponed due to the fact that our friend couldn’t come over to help us due to Covid restrictions. Also, getting the area ready to put up a pool took several weeks, so all in all the gardening season was mostly cancelled.

This year, we’re working on the left hand side which is my vegetable garden. Terracing the slope means working with those nice planting stones and I must say, by now I’m pretty good at it. This is how the project looks right now:

View of a garden slope with red planting stones in rows

©Giliell, all rights reserved

You can see several things here. Number one, our ground is pretty sandy. One year I tried to plant carrots and they simply didn’t manage to grow downwards. the good thing is that it keeps moisture in the depth really well (although the surface quickly resembles the Sahara). I’ll put a layer of gardening soil on top for the young plants. The lowest terrace will be planted with chillis. The second terrace, which you can only guess from this pic is between stone rows 3 and 4. That will be for sweet peppers. the rectangular stones at the side are for flowers. We need to put them there so the side with our to be demolished one day garage doesn’t slide into the veggie patches, as there is little growth there. Now for the bigger problem:

View of a garden and a house with stairs separating two slopes

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The garden is actually a two way slope, being much higher on the left hand side than the right hand side. the perspective of the image is a bit misleading. The terraces created so far are 2/3 of the depth, but only half of the height. After the next two rows of stones we’ll run into a problem: the terrain grows wider, the stairs turn to the right, creating a triangle that sits much lower than the left hand side, which is causing us a lot of headache. Our current idea is to keep the terraces six planting stones wide, and to create a drystone wall in that nasty triangle. If you have a better one, feel free to tell me. While it all looks pretty gloomy right now, it will be wonderful and a habitat for many little critters once we’re finished and the planting has begun. On the right you can see last year’s project. That side will remain “wild”, although I always throw flower seeds there because otherwise I#m ending up with a monoculture of goldenrod.

Speaking about critters: The wild bees are alternately very happy with us and very upset. Each time we move some earth they go “ohhhhhhh, loose earth, let’s go burrowing”, only for us to destroy it again. They still got the entire right hand side where whatever loose earth we put here stays put. Here’s an ashy mining bee for you:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And, last, but not least, some of the residents to be. Sadly we’re having a really cold spell with solid frost overnight, which doesn’t allow to plant even the more robust plants outside, so my windowsills are being overgrown…

©Giliell, all rights reserved Butternut squash, already showing flower buds

©Giliell, all rights reserved Nasturtiums and sunflowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved Hokaido squash, Mexican Honey tomatoes, orange cocktail tomatoes, and on the left some sweet peppers

I also keep carrying some plants outside in the morning and inside at night. Hopefully we’ll have left the worst of the cold behind us, but it’s supposed to stay grey and cool throughout the next week.

DIY Reusable (Hopefully) Etching Stencils

At about the same time that I have decided to leave my job and try to make a living as a knifemaker, I have also decided to number the blades that I make. And since my logo is my initials in Glagolitic script, it seemed only logical to use Glagolitic numbering too. Almost nobody will be able to read the numerals without aid (including me), but I do think that arabic numerals would look a bit odd in combination with my logo, so I have decided to go through with the use of Glagolitsa.

The numerals consist mostly of straight lines and dots, so it is kinda easy to cut them in adhesive tape with a scalpel tip. But it costs relatively a lot of time – I have spent about ten minutes per blade since I have moved into two-number digits and things will only get more and more complicated after that. So for a long time, I was thinking about how to make stencils.

I could not use the same method that I use for my logo, because the numerals are so tiny that even if I were able to cut them into the 1 mm silicone sheet, the etching solution would have trouble reaching the surface through such a narrow, water-repelling, canal anyway. I needed something thinner. Like a sheet of paper. But how to waterproof a sheet of paper? I have tried it with wax in the past, and that did not work. Beeswax contaminated the surfaces and paraffin wax is not elastic enough. It would be ideal to infuse the paper with silicone, somehow, but how? I was thinking about trying to buy pouring silicone for forms, but I was reluctant to spend money on it not knowing upfront if it will be of any use.

And then I got a much simpler idea, so simple that it does make me wonder how come I did not come up with it sooner – linseed oil. I have printed my numerals on a sheet of paper, soaked it thoroughly in linseed oil, and left it harden for a few days. The resulting sheet was repelling water and bendy enough to adhere reliably to the blades, whilst stiff enough for me to be able to cut the numerals.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Each stencil has two parts – one for vertical lines, one for the rest, since oftentimes it is not possible to cut the whole number at once for obvious reasons. The oiled paper is also transparent enough to be able to place the second part over the first reliably-ish enough.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Since the stencils are so small that some unwanted etching around the edge of the stencil is a real risk, I have made a round shield from silicone to protect the surrounding area and also to provide a better seal for the stencil itself. And when I was at it, I have made two new graphite etching electrodes with the felt permanently attached to the graphite. One with big rectangular felt (left) for the logos (not used yet) and one with a soft, round tip specifically for the numerals.

And I am pleased to say that it all works. I was numbering blades 40-48 just a few days ago and it took me a lot less time than before – and this time I still had to cut the numerals into the paper. Next time I should be even faster because the stencils are already cut and I see no reason why they should not last until the next batch of blades is ready for etching. Here you can see one test-etch of the number 40 on the tang and the number 41 on the blade.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

The numbers are not perfect, but they are not worse-looking than they were before. Indeed it could be argued that if the numerals were perfect, it would undercut the handmade look of my knives which always have some minor irregularities in them no matter what I do. Or it could be argued that I am setting my goals too low, well…

We shall see what the public decides once the pandemic is over and I can go and sort out all the necessary paperwork to be able to actually sell them.

 

I Almost Didn’t Fail the Second Time

My first attempt at big blade ended up in a disaster and after several years of procrastinating the issue ended up as a smaller (though not small) knife. I gave it a second shot because 1) I really need a machete 2) I want to learn to make these big blades for I have big plans for the future, that will no doubt never come to fruition.

And as the title says it, I almost didn’t fail this time. At least, I do have a serviceable tool to use in my garden.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Spring steel, blackened with oak bark. 4-6 mm thick, 51 cm overall length. Fully hardened, spine tempered to spring.

This time things went reasonably well, but I was suspecting that I have ground the fullers too deep. At least they were passably symmetrical – there was no trouble in the quench. The blade came out hardened and mostly straight, and the very slight bent it has developed (circa 1-2 mm over the whole length) was easily corrected with my unbender after heat treatment.

However, when I was trying to polish the blade and smooth out the fullers, it turned out I was right – I made the fullers too deep and near the tip I have thus ground through. But it might not be a functional issue, just an aesthetic one, so I have decided to finish it, albeit with less attention to detail than I would had it been a complete success. I have filed the hole bigger and oval with diamond-coated files (to remove any stress-risers) and I have stopped polishing the blade, especially the insides of the fullers. I just gave it a few buffs with scotch brite discs for angle-grinder and then it went into the oak bark tee for a nice night-long bath.

Handle fittings are from bronze and handle scales are from pickled black locust. I did want the blade to complement the previous one since they will both be used by me in my garden. This handle is specifically fitted to my hands, so nobody with different-shaped hands would probably feel comfortable using it. I have no idea yet how it will work out in the long term, but it did feel perfectly fine when I gave a few whacks to an old wooden board with it.

I might make a scabbard or a sheath for it too. I am currently thinking about whether to make a double-sheath for the pair or a separate sheath for each item. Both options have pros and cons. Not that I do actually need a sheath for wearing them, they are unlikely to ever leave the house further than the 60 or so meters that is my backyard long, but they are both sharp and big and dangerous and could get rusty, so I need an option for safe storage, both protecting them from elements and me from injuries when they are not used.

Birds on Snow

I will post some pretty birds from this winter in due course. So the weather in the pictures will not always correspond to the actual weather out here.

However, these pictures were taken today. The winter tried to reclaim the land and we had several days of wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. I do hope that the seeds that I have planted in the greenhouse survived.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size