Archive for the ‘misc’ Category

The incubator

August 29, 2016

My paraffin egg incubator was already a museum piece when I acquired it nearly 40 years ago. I used it when I was a poultry keeper but it has been unused for more than 30 years, for much of that time occupying space in my coal shed which is now, rather more a log store.

It has just been brought to the surface and dusted off ready for a starring role in somebody else’s life story. It is a fab bit of kit which solved the problems of egg incubation in a simple but effective way, using a paraffin burner as the warmth source. Let’s see this item outside on a bright sunny day.


So how can a simple paraffin stove maintain a steady temperature of 103o Fahrenheit for hens eggs, be adjusted to 102o for duck eggs or about 99.5o for goose eggs. The answer is simple and all depends on the capsule which is this little chap below.


This item sits on a shelf high up in the incubator the gas in the blob in the middle expands and pushes the metal outwards. A rod rests on the capsule and passes through a tube and out of the top of the incubator.

Here it can push the weighted bar up and down. Adjustments can be made by altering the screw or by moving the weight on that horizontal bar. At the end of that bar a lid hangs over the heater.


If the capsule thinks the incubator is cold the rod is slightly lowered and the lid shuts over the heater which diverts heat and combustion products into the incubator. As it warms, the lid rises and heat just escapes into the air. Amazingly, it works well and it can be checked by reading off the thermometer which hangs in the incubator.


This thermometer – and the whole incubator – was made by the Gloucester Incubator co ltd of Woodchester which is near Stroud.

This particular model is the Gloucester Junior.


And there we see the closures that give access to the inside for turning eggs and filling water trays.


Now as an extra, when we got this incubator we popped into our local Ministry of Agriculture Office to see if there was any information on how to use it. Yes, they had one which included this picture.


It looks remarkably familiar!

Cloud iridescence

August 28, 2016

Odd bits of rainbow in the sky

A few days ago we were driving home from the east which meant that as it was evening, we were heading into the sunshine. Up in the sky there were two blobs of colour in the clouds on each side of the sun – not that close to it but seemingly equidistant from it.

Eventually, after the best had faded rather, I was able to stop and get a photo of one of them.


I recall seeing something similar before – also when driving only that time on the M5 motorway with no chance of stopping.

So what, I wondered, caused these bits of colour. If we believe Wikipedia then this is cloud iridescence.

Apparently tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause this effect. It is noticeable in thin clouds and the droplets, apparently, diffract the light – separating it into colours. This is something similar to what you see with a thin film of oil on a puddle of water.

But whatever the science, it looks lovely and, apparently, is not a common sight.


August 25, 2016

There are not so many parts of the UK which I have not visited. Actually, I have not yet made it to Northern Ireland – the 6 counties. But elsewhere I have been most places.

But Sherringham in Norfolk I barely know although I have been there. It features on my railway poster calendar for this month.


Artwork here is by Tom W Armes and the poster was used from 1948 to 1965.

I look at this and wonder how I have come to miss the place. As ever, a railway poster makes a place look very special. When I was there, back in 2005, I took a couple of photos.


Well as you can see, I’m not quite in the place. We went to a National Trust owned area – Sherringham Park.


Sherringham is on the heritage North Norfolk Railway


The railway station in Sherringham featured a modern clock and a pigeon back in 2005.



Show preparation

August 23, 2016

Maybe we are mugs but we do enjoy the village produce show which will take place in just a few days time. We enter with no great hope of doing well but just to enter into the fun and friendship of it all. Contrary to what newspapers and TV portray, whilst rivalry is keen it is very friendly. The old established competitors are always ready to help newcomers show their items to best effect.

This August has been hectic in our household, so real show thoughts have only just begun and the only photo I can show just now is of some of my wife’s potential entries.


In the foreground here we have garlic. Now there isn’t a class for garlic but there is ‘any other vegetable’. Could there be an attempt to wow the judge by plaiting the stems? That’s something advice might be sought on and an alternative, in plaited set is available.

Behind, sitting in a box, are various jars of jam, curd and chutney. Now they have been purposely decorated with a cloth top. It isn’t essential and the judge will taste some samples – but there’s no harm doing something to catch the eye.

I believe the white box contains sweets, but as I’m a rival competitor in that class (with two firsts and a second in the last three years) I won’t peep.

One of the things that makes this event really enjoyable is family involvement. It turns this into two shows in one. There’s the open competition and the private, family one, which continues after the show is over and we eat some of the items.

Yes, the show is good, wholesome fun for the family and friends.

The Permanent Way gang on Rannoch Moor

August 21, 2016

Having left Maid of the Loch at Tarbet (yesterday’s post) back in August 1970, we stayed in a beautiful youth hostel on the banks of Loch Long and the following morning caught the train to Fort William from Arrochar and Tarbet station.

This was to be one of the best railway journeys ever. It was after the steam era and our train was diesel hauled. For the nerds we had an English Electric type one (class 20) in charge of the train. It was underpowered and went slowly affording time to see the surrounding bleak, wild and wonderful scenery.

I looked forward to crossing the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor. The tales of railway prospectors trying to pick a route almost beggar belief. Elderly men dressed in Sunday best set out to walk across the moor. The weather closed in and they got lost and separated. One of them banged his head on a rock and became unconscious. The brolly one of them carried proved no use at all in the wild weather. Almost amazingly, all survived and the line was built over the moor – still as remote a spot as you could wish for.

But railways need maintaining and during our journey across Rannoch Moor, a permanent way gang were at work. I could, of course, lean out of the window in those days to take a photo of them. The train was travelling at little more than walking pace.


The men have stepped aside to allow the train to pass. It’s interesting to note the lack of hi-vis jackets. In terms of settlement or habitation, there is nothing.

Life has not taken me back to Rannoch since that day, but on a recent visit to Scotland we looked at Arrochar and Tarbet station, for old time’s sake.


It would not have had any Gaelic back in 1970.

August at Kew (and in Wiltshire)

August 17, 2016

The August Kew picture isn’t an absolute favourite, perhaps because it doesn’t emphasise the transport links. It does remind us that it used to be cheap to visit the place – just a penny!


OK, it mentions a station. This was a 1937 poster by Betty Swanwick.

Now we’ll turn to my garden which has not had the best of years. Very wet conditions earlier in the year brought out the slugs in huge numbers and then we have our mammalian marauders – roe deer, muntjac deer, rabbits and badgers which all make use of the garden for their own benefit sometimes at our expense (but we love seeing them all). And we also suffer avian attack notably from wood pigeons.

Our garden tends to be at its best in spring. It rapidly turns from too wet to too dry, being light sandy soil so it tends to be small containers, near the house and above ground level that provide us with colour.


But some plants do amazingly well. Hollyhocks could be regarded as weeds for they spring up all over the place. But what lovely plants they are.


The assault mob of animals must find them distasteful for they grow well. Well isn’t that delightful!


Granny’s Birthday Book

August 12, 2016

Many people kept and many may still keep a birthday book listing the days when friends and family members were born. This one was my Granny’s book.


Birthday wishes from Tennyson? All will be explained. In fact this was a gift from my grandfather to granny, years before they married.


There is the inscription. Granny’s birthday was January 1st so this was a birthday present from my grandad to what was then his teenaged girlfriend.

So, of course, the first birthday in the book is Granny’s own.


My dad added the year and the date of death.

Granny was often a bit fierce when it came to eradicating the names of people who died.


I think this says Aunty Emmie. She was the wife of one of Grandad’s brothers.

But Granny’s sister appears to have been allowed to remain on the books, as it were, after her premature demise.


Clearly, this is information which could be useful to a family history researcher. But sadly, Emily (always known by her middle name of Sue) had no children. I never knew her, but I rather think memory of her and photos of her are probably only with me.

Now why was Tennyson mentioned? Well, every day has a Tennyson quote associated with it and this is the one for Emily S Stevens.


What a great little item to have and to hold

Some Cornish Music

August 11, 2016

Now in truth I don’t know how Cornish this is, but the book was compiled by a Cornishman who also put together books of Cornish dialect songs. But this particular book has a little family history interest as well.


This is the book by Dunstan and Bygott. It is just a chance that R Dunstan could be a relative but we’ll leave that on one side.  The title sheet has an inscription from R Dunstan.


The book was sent to ‘My friend W W Piper with kindest regards from Ralph Dunstan, June 1932′. Wilfred Welch Piper was my wife’s great uncle by marriage.

He has added a paragraph of his own thoughts in a blank part of the book.image006

I have two recollections of ballad singers. One visited Trevithick Cross about two miles from Penzance on the St Just road (about 1880) and after singing several songs offered “broadsheets” with the words at 1d (a penny) each.
The other related to a very ragged old man with a wonderful voice for one so aged who visited Camelford as late as 1887.
Summercourt and St Lawrence Fairs were, I have heard, regularly visited by ballad singers with broadsheets offering at ½d and 1d each many years ago.

Ralph Dunstan died in April 1933 at Callestick, Cornwall. Let’s finish with a page of his music.


The August Ravilious Image

August 9, 2016

This is the woodcut by Eric Ravilious that I am enjoying during August.


Once again this is a cut made for the 1938 issue of A Natural History of Selborne, the landmark book by Gilbert White, first published in 1789.

This one certainly brings a smile to my face.

The calendar itself has this to say about this image.


Delivering the black stuff

August 7, 2016

As I write this I have no definite idea as to what the black stuff is but for some days huge tipper lorries have appeared – just occasionally – and tipped black stuff on a prepared patch halfway up Salisbury Plain. This, of course, is in view from my house and here is a scene with two lorries in view.


That’s the scene with a growing pile of black stuff and the two drivers approaching one another for a chat.


Now they chat – well we assume so for this is half a mile from my home.


I really ought to get up there and find out what the black stuff is. Is it very well rotted manure, soot or what?

Quite possibly it is biochar – effectively charcoal. That’s a trendy thing to use to improve soil fertility.

Any ideas out there?


Having taken a closer look it is not biochar. It is a slimy looking mud – looks a bit like silt and it stinks to high heaven!