Marcus has mentioned Alec Steele a few weeks ago, but at first I did not like his over-the-top presenting style. Well, he is young and full of vim and vigor, and I am getting old and full of bile, what can you expect.

However Alec seems to be a genuinely likeable guy – his career is essentially built on helping others to learn the blacksmithing trade. And that is something I really cannot object to. I got over my initial dislike of his whooping and now I am binge-watching his videos and learning new stuff. Maybe I get to try some of it in real life.

I am a bit envious that he has found a job he loves, is good at it and it puts bread on the table at mere 16 years age, I managed only two out of three when I was twice that age. Grumble grumble grum….

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 2

Welcome to the next chapter of Nightjar’s series about exploring the hills near her home in Portugal.

Chapter 2 – East Hill: Limestone Rocks!

Limestone may not be the prettiest of rocks, but I really like rocks, and images such as this make me happy. The other side of this limestone formation, facing a neighbouring village, is currently being explored for cement production. On “our” side there is only evidence of the work of stonemasons who used to sculpt the rock in place and carry their works downhill. Word has it that some people have found sculptures among the piles of rocks on the top of the hill, but I never found anything. Just rocks, really.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

A Field of Marigolds

I thought that Nightjar’s sunny Marigold photo from yesterday couldn’t be beat, but today she’s sent us an entire field of bright yellow Marigolds. I love the way the focus fades and the flowers start to look like bright yellow balloons bobbing in the breeze.

Marigolds (Calendula arvensis), ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Thanks, Nightjar

A Little Snow

Well, actually a lot of snow. These breathtaking photos are from DavidinOz.

…here are some photos from when I lived in New Zealand. They are from Tekapo in McKenzie Country on the South Island.

1 & 3 are the Church of the Good Shepherd exterior, while No 2 is the view through the window behind the altar. How could anyone listen to a sermon with that view? I am sure they must have drawn a curtain. The last 3 are taken from the top of Mount John, site of an observatory. The sky at Tekapo is so clear it is now listed as a world heritage area to protect it from light pollution.

It is a magical place, one I was pleased to see in all seasons.

Tekapo 1. ©David Brindley, all rights reserved

[Read more…]

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Introduction and Chapter 1

Nightjar has been working hard on a new series for us which is making its debut today. We’ll be posting a new chapter every other day, which will include weekends, so be sure to check in often because you won’t want to miss a single post. The first chapter is about trees which makes Tuesday the right day to begin, so I invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy exploring a bit of Portugal with Nightjar.


This series was inspired by both Ice Swimmer’s “Harakka Island” series (starting here)  and a post by rq on the Macedonian rocks that made her homesick, here. . I have no islands nearby to visit but I do have hills with rocks. In fact, I live between two hills that are very different from each other and both mean a lot to me, bringing childhood memories of fossil and rock hunting with my family and childhood friends. I do not go up the hills as often as I used to, but they really aren’t far from home and an afternoon is more than enough to explore one of them. In a November afternoon I went East and had fun among limestone. In a December afternoon I went West and had fun among phyllites and quartz. And yes, my pockets were heavy on my way back home. I can’t resist it. But let’s start our journey… let’s go East! [Read more…]

Sunshine and Rainbows

A magical double rainbow from Jazzlet.

“This is the view from my bedroom window, lovely isn’t it? It’s a bit deceptive, you can’t see that beyond the end of the garden there is a steep slope down to a field, which is where we most often walk the dogs, beyond that is the Peak Forest Canal, then a local railway line – you can see that if you know where to look. The real deception though is the way it appears that we live in the country, when we live in a suburb, but like many northern cities there are fingers of countryside that reach into the urban area, and we are lucky enough to live on the edge of one of those fingers. When I’m on my laptop typing comments I’m in the room below our bedroom, the view isn’t quite as good as it’s blocked by our extension and by our neighbour’s enormous hedge on the left, and by the other neighbour’s conservatory on the right, but it’s still pretty amazing. The valley runs north/south and we can often see the weather blowing up it, maybe sheets of rain, sometimes the valley fills with mist and looks as if it’s boiling up before spilling over into the garden, occasionally the cloud drops right down and we can’t see to the end of the garden, let alone Top O’ The Hill. Yes that wee hill is known as Top O’ The Hill.”


©Jazzlet, all rights reserved

Breathtaking. Thanks for sharing Jazzlet.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland: part 7

A few final images of the Winter Wonderland. It is long gone now, being more of a brown yucky marshland now (I love our woods, but right now the smell of the stale water is often not too nice).

Needle ice

©Giliell, all rights reserved
More needle ice

frozen berries

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Frozen berries

frozen plants

©Giliell, all rights reserved

frozen plants

©Giliell, all rights reserved


©Giliell, all rights reserved


©Giliell, all rights reserved


©Giliell, all rights reserved


©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved
If the birds don’t cooperate, rely on the trees.

The last one is an interesting one. I did not get the bird I was trying to shoot, but I ended up with a damn interesting picture.


©Giliell, all rights reserved



Making Kitchen Knives – Part 10 – Shaping the Outlines

I have not forgotten or discontinued this project, only when it is cold I have to first heat up my workshop before doing any work – which wastes a lot of fuel and a lot of time. Therefore in winter I never manage to do as much work as I would like to. But I managed to do something in the last two months – like building the tumbler (that has run for five days straight by now btw. and it has made a very nice satin finish on the broken blade).

But I could not do much actual work on the knives themselves, because first I must focus on making the necessary improvements. I managed only one step in the process and one failed improvement in the next one.

The step that I have managed with success is shaping the outline of the blades. Last time I ended up with three stacks of blanks held together with screws. So I took them to the belt grinder and ground the outline of all three stacks. After that I disassembled the stacks and cleaned up any irregularities, burrs etc.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I ended up with a stack of 12 knife blanks. They are not all identical, but in three shapes – next time I will have to think a bit more about how to get reliably reproducible results. To save my self trouble when cutting the handle scales I have marked the blanks in each group on the tang with letters T, V and X. Why these letters? Because they are easily distinguishable from each other and can be scratched with just two lines.

This step was not actually very time-consuming before – just 10 minutes per blade, or 1, 55% of the whole process. Theoretically not worth improving. But I hope that having three groups of four reasonably identical handles will save me some time when shaping the handle – which took 110 minutes per handle, or 17% of the whole process.

Nevertheless, shaping four blades at once did bring some minor time-saving in itself – I have spent only 5 minutes per blade now, so I have saved 5 minutes from my process. This has confirmed that this was indeed low hanging fruit – it was a very easy improvement.

Next step is basic grind of the blade – and this is where I have my first failed attempt at improvement to share in my next post.

Early winter wildflowers

Something special from Nightjar,

These photos are my new year gift to you and also to everyone at Affinity currently dealing with a dull winter. The mild Portuguese winter is, as you can see, full of life and colour, and even if I can’t share the sun and temperatures with you I can at least share the sights. I hope they bring you some happiness.

Coincya sp. (I think), ©Nightjar, all rights reserved


Chickweed (Stellaria sp.), ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Daisy (Chameleon fuscatum), ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Fumaria muralis, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Fumaria muralis, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Thank you, Nightjar. My winter remains dull and your flowers are a welcome gift.