Meg and I were on the way to see our good friend, Clive, who is on an ‘end-of-life’ pathway and hoped to be able to wave to him through the window of his house. But we were intercepted as we approached the house by a desolate daughter-in-law who informed us that Clive had died at 8.30 the previous evening. This news always comes as a shock when it happens, even though it was expected in the days ahead. On the one hand, we are filled with utter sadness at the loss of a dear friend – on the other hand, we were extremely relieved that he died in the comfort of his own home surrounded by his relatives and people who love him and largely free from pain. At least we have been spared the sight of a departing ambulance which is the last that many people up and down the land are experiencing with the COVID-19 virus. Clive had been a good friend to Meg and myself – we entertained him two or three times for a meal or a Christmas ‘do’ and one occasion had a wonderful trip on the Severn Valley Railway which we all enjoyed. And, of course, he played his trumpet at our 50th wedding celebrations in 2017 and we are so pleased that we have a clip of video of him playing at that event [in this blog, Friday 24th April, 2020- Day 39] and here it is again: Clive Of course, the funeral arrangements are going to be a bit difficult but it looks as though up to 10 family members can attend the actual funeral. All of his other friends and acquaintances will probably gather outside his house at about the time that the hearse is due to depart so that we can all give him a heartfelt clap for a life well-lived, which seems to be a tradition which is rapidly becoming established these days. As we walked around the park, we were really fortunate in view of our really sad news we had just received to encounter three sets of friends. We had chats with all of them and it helped us enormously to get us back onto a more even emotional keel. In the afternoon, as the weather was set fair, I became tempted to do some of the edging and gulley maintenance I used to do before we had some help in the garden. I must say, there is no real substitute for getting down on your knees and tacking things with a gloved hand. These days, I tend to do these things in fairly small bursts (i.e.no more than an hour) so that my back doesn’t suffer, followed by another hour of routine housework.
Now that spring is here, I am starting to think again about my composting routines. Although there is a lot of confusing advice out on the web, the consensus view is 3 parts ‘browns’ (carbon-rich) to one part ‘greens’ (nitrogen-rich) If you are doing a lot of weeding and therefore have a lot of ‘green’ materials, you need to add a fair quantity of browns and for this, I shred whatever cardboard comes my way – particularly in the early part of the year. Later on in the year when you have more dead twigs or leaves, then this ratio is easier to maintain. (I have been known to scour supermarket shelves for ’empty’ cardboard containers at the start of the season) The tip is, of course, to have a shredder but it is not unknown for these to break down as they become clogged with paper dust. The secret is to keep it well oiled (every 2nd or 3 use). Now, for the ‘not many people know this‘ advice. The shredder oil that manufacturers try to sell is 99.9% canola oil so the tip is that you can use any vegetable cooking oil rather than shredder oil and if you want to be particularly careful, you can always buy and use rapeseed oil (which the North Americans call ‘canola’ – originally developed to be more ecologically friendly in the Canadian logging industries) This will prolong the life of your shredder no end and will also aid the composting processes by ensuring that the ‘brown’ (i.e. carbon-rich) components of the compost are already in a broken-down form. But you knew all of this anyway!