Well, Well, Well

 There are a number of meanings for well but I am using the following definitions: (i) in good health, (ii) as an exclamation, (iii) a borehole to supply water, and (iv) in a good or satisfactory way.

What was meant to be a short-stay family gathering on the Isle of Wight, turned into a longer-than-expected holiday due to illness; more of that later.

We travelled down from Hereford on Friday 20th October to catch the 2 o'clock afternoon ferry. After a somewhat arduous journey of more than 4½ hours, we arrived at Lymington Pier with a quarter of an hour to spare. The journey included a short stop at Pewsey to take onboard refreshments and use the facilities.

The short (45 minutes) and expensive crossing was uneventful and, before you knew it, we were gathered around the kitchen table, supping tea, eating cake & catching up with the family news.

A trip to Carisbrooke Castle was planned for the following day. It was at Carisbrooke that we joined English Heritage many moons ago (possibly over 40 years ago, but don't quote me on that one). 

Photo 1: Looking towards the Keep, Carisbrooke Castle
The standard admission price (£12.50 for an adult) is excellent value, although as members we get free entry. You get to climb the Norman battlements, see the donkeys walk the treadmill to draw water from the well (definition (iii)), visit the chapel and gardens,  and educate yourself in the superb museum.

Photo 2: Chapel looking South

Photo 3: Chapel looking North

There is a cafe on site which was rather busy on the day we visited. Don't forget to enjoy the panoramic views from the battlements ...

Photo 4: Views Looking North

Photo 5: Views Looking North

And a couple of sketches by Mary ...
Painting by Mary 1: Carisbrooke Castle (22/10/23)

Painting by Mary 2: Carisbrooke Castle (22/10/23)


By way of contrast, Mary and I visited Mottistone Manor Gardens - looked after by the National Trust - the following day. 

Photo 6: Mottistone House & Gardens (22/10/23)

This is a very different experience to Carisbrooke which is heavily steeped in English National History. The entry price, £8.50 per adult, is a little cheaper for Mottistone and still good value especially if you enjoy formal gardens and wide open spaces to walk. Children appeared to enjoy both Carisbrooke and Mottistone. As members, we get free entry.

Despite the lateness of the year, there was still plenty of colour on display.

Photo 7: Mottistone Gardens (22/10/23)


Photo 8: Mottistone Gardens (22/10/23)

Photo 9: Mottistone Gardens (22/10/23)

Photo 10: Mottistone Gardens (22/10/23)

Photo 11: Bee on Cosmos Flower, Mottistone (22/10/23)

The house, itself, only has a few rooms open for the secondhand bookshop - the plan is to open up more rooms in the future now the previous resident has left. Other points of interest include The Shack in the tea garden and the nearby Church of St Peter & St Paul, where Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) was married. We both had a rather tasty homemade soup and cheese scone in the tea garden and Mary sketched this scene ...

Painting by Mary 3: Mottistone (22/10/23)

... before we departed and headed for the National Trust car park at Compton Bay. It was getting a little cool now so we just enjoyed the view from the car ...

Painting by Mary 4: Rooks at Compton Bay (22/10/23)

... before returning to the family accommodation.

Over the last few days, I had been suffering from pains in my left leg (calf) and ribcage (righthand side) alleviated somewhat by applying ibuprofen gel. Back at base, my sister-in-law said I didn't look too good - which I thought was a bit cheeky. In this case, however, she meant I did not look well (definition (i)). It was suggested a trip to A&E was appropriate and I agreed as I was shivering and aching.

To cut a long story short, I collapsed briefly while in A&E. I regained consciousness quickly with the help of some extra oxygen and was whisked off to the Resuscitation Unit. I had suffered a pulmonary embolism. Well!! That was unexpected (definition (ii)).

I was put on anti-coagulant & antibiotics, had CT and Echo Scans, and continued to take extra oxygen via nasal prongs. I was moved four times while in St Mary's Hospital, due to a chronic shortage of beds, but was extremely well cared for (definition (iv)) by the medical and ancillary staff. On the 4th day, I was taken off oxygen and, on Day 5, I was discharged. I cannot speak highly enough of everyone at St Mary's: from the receptionist whom I spoke to first to the consultant who explained what was going on all the way through my treatment.

After a rather nasty experience with an egg mayonnaise sandwich (in name only) on the first night (there was no other vegetarian/vegan option), the regular food turned out to be surprisingly tasty. There was always a vegetarian option for lunch and tea with plenty to drink throughout the day. A fairly typical meal is shown in Photo 12; believe it or not but that green stuff at the front of the plate was advertised as garden peas!


Photo 12: Hospital Meal

The original 4-day break from blogging turned, unexpectedly, into a 9-day break. However, we're now back home with slightly more time on my hands as the doctors say I have to take it easy. Annoyingly, my heart rate data during the pulmonary embolism was wiped, presumably by the CT scanner; it would have been nice to see if there were any prewarning signs in the data.


Workout On the Potato Plot

 The mental and physical health benefits of gardening are well-documented. The 12th of October 2023 was a fairly typical day at home.

Figure 1: Heart Rate Timeline for 12/10/23

Arising about 8 am () after 7 -8 hours of sleep, time for a leisurely breakfast before a request to move a heavy object upstairs (second ), and an increase in heart rate! A period of general household chores, tea breaks, and shredding garden waste followed (first white period). Having fully warmed up, time for some strenuous work digging over the potato plot (second white period), then lunch (blue period) before finishing off the day's gardening with a bout of compost sieving (third white period). Mid-afternoon tea-break () before retiring indoors just before 6 pm ().

Our granddaughter had helped to find most of the potatoes when she visited in early September. Mary and most of the children and grandchildren enjoy digging up potatoes - I suppose it is akin to finding treasure. Of course, they are not interested in the hard work that goes into preparing the crop. With the grandchildren, I make a 'game' of it by getting the children to weigh the crop and find the biggest (381 g) and smallest (1 g) potatoes. Fortunately, I don't have to go to such efforts for Mary!!

I have to congratulate our granddaughter on finding over 90% of the potatoes. As Photo 1 shows, she only missed a few that were recovered when I dug over the plot. Unfortunately, I found a larger specimen (429 g) so I will have to pick my moment when I tell her the bad news.

Photo 1 shows the plot after (i) getting rid of the cat poo, (ii) weeding, (iii) digging over and removing the potatoes missed on the first digging, and (iv) adding 100 L sieved compost.

Photo 1: Last Season's Potato and Sweetcorn Plot (Dug & Composted)

After raking level ...

Photo 2: Last Season's Potato Plot - Dug, Enriched with Compost, and Raked Level

... the plot was covered with black plastic to prevent the cats from using it as their toilet ...

Photo 3: Last Year's Potato/Sweetcorn Plot Put to Bed for the Winter

In order to compare the health benefits of gardening with an alternative form of lifestyle, I looked for a non-gardening day with a similar level of activity; i.e. approximately the same number of steps.  Fortunately, I only had to wait a few days for a comparative study. My day in the garden on 12th of October had a step count of 10,493.

On the 15th of October, we travelled to Rhayader for a short holiday. Last-minute jobs and packing up the car (first yellow period), driving to Rhayader (green period), two-hour walk in Gilfach Nature Reserve (red period), unpacking and settling into the accommodation (second yellow period) and evening concert (blue period). The step count for the 15th of October was 10443, just 50 steps short of the total for the 12th of October. Figure 2 shows the timeline for heart rate on 15th of October and for comparison with Figure 1.

Figure 2: Heart Rate Timeline (15/10/23)

Average, maximum, and minimum heart rates for both days (12/10/23 and 15/10/23) were similar (Table 1)

Table 1: Comparison of Heart Rates on Both Days

Heart Rate

Gardening (12/10/23)

Walking/General (15/10/23)

Daily Average

78

74

Daily Maximum

135

128

Daily Minimum

45

48

However, the intensity levels were different (Table 2) with much longer (3x) periods of aerobic/anaerobic activity on the gardening day (12/10/23).

Table 2: Relative Exercise Intensities (hours & minutes) for Both Days

Exercise-Type

Gardening (12/10/23)

Walking/General (15/10/23)

Relaxed

8h 33m

8h 35m

Light

1h 33m

1h 57m

Intensive

1hr 43m

2h 1m

Aerobic

1h 12m

27m

Anaerobic

27m

7m


Note that both days had levels of intensive exercise above the daily recommended periods for someone of my age. The gardening day just had higher and included extra strengthening exercises (digging).

[Note: heart rate data collected from Amazbit Bip 3 Pro watch and Zepp app]

Red Admiral Butterflies

After spotting only the occasional red admiral butterfly over the summer months, they seem to be everywhere and very populous in October. This specimen was seen in the Kitchen Garden on the 13th of October.

Photo 1: Red Admiral, Kitchen Garden, 13th October 2023

I suspect the recent hot weather in September and the beginning of October has resulted in this sudden mass emergence (see Figure 1 for the red admiral lifecycle chart).

Figure 1: Red Admiral Lifecycle (© Butterfly Conservation)

We also spotted lots on our recent visit to Kelmscott Manor on the 7th of October ...

Photo 2: Red Admiral on Ivy, Kelmscott Manor (7/10/23)

In the short clip below (Video 1), a recently-emerged butterfly is drying out on a sunny south-facing wall at Kelmscott Manor ...

Video 1: Red Admiral on Sunny Wall, Kelmscott Manor, 7th October 2023

We counted at least fourteen Red Admirals at one time on this ivy-covered wall. There are at least seven in the photo below (Photo 2):

Photo 2: Spot the Red Admiral Butterfly Competition

... or you could try finding the four red admirals and a ladybird in the next photo (Photo 3):

Photo 3: Four Red Admirals and a Ladybird, Kelmscott Manor

 And finally, a close-up of a Red Admiral on Redcurrant Bush in the Kitchen Garden ...

Photo 4: Red Admiral on Currant Bush, 13th October 2023

Late News: Man rescues butterfly trapped in polytunnel. Both doing well!

Photo 5: Red Admiral before Rescue


Kelmscott Manor - William Morris' "Heaven on Earth"

On the way to a recent family get-together to celebrate a birthday and a baptism, we took the opportunity to visit Kelmscott Manor, a favourite haunt of William Morris, one of the fathers of the Arts & Craft Movement.

Photo 1: Mary on Path leading to the Entrance of Kelmscott Manor

In case you were wondering what Mary was sketching, it was the summerhouse (top left in Photo 2).

Photo 2: Sketches of Kelmscott Manor Buildings (7/10/23)

We pass Kelmscott Manor often on the way to visit the children and grandchildren but always on a day when they are shut. Opening times are limited to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April until the end of October. This time we knew they would be open on our journey to the family get-together so I pre-booked a timed slot for the house with plenty of time to look around the gardens (£14.50 each).

For a more leisurely trip, we stayed at the New Inn Hotel, Lechlade-on-Thames, the night before. 

Photo 3: The New Inn Hotel, Lechlade-on-Thames (17th Century Coaching Inn)

We were in Room 1 with its quirky "Alice in Wonderland" entrance down a sloping floor to an undersized door ...

Photo 4: Sloping entrance to Room 1

... that opened into a large room with a four-poster bed!

Photo 5: Four-poster bed in Room 1

The hotel manager recommended the hotel's restaurant for an evening meal (of course) but also suggested the Bangladeshi restaurant round the corner when he heard we were vegan/vegetarian ...

Photo 6: Khushi Bangladeshi Restaurant (Lechlade-on-Thames)

... it was a good choice.

After breakfast at The New Inn (excellent) we had a quick look around St Lawrence's Church ...

Photo 7: St Lawrence's Church, Lechlade-on-Thames

... before picking up a few supplies from the local supermarket (Budgens) and heading off to Kelmscott Manor (Photo 8).

Photo 8: Kelmscott Manor

The car park is some 400-500 metres from the Manor, but there is a small electric shuttle bus should you need it. We walked as it was a very pleasant day.

As a house, Kelmscott Manor is fairly standard Cotswold fare so the reason for visiting would be an interest in William Morris, his family and/or his/their work. Mary spent longer in the house because of her greater interest in art/textiles whereas I skimmed through the exhibits and waited outside in the garden for Mary to finish. The volunteer stewards were very knowledgeable. Photographs are allowed but no flash. Here are some of Mary's photos to give you a flavour:

Photo 9

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12

We managed a cake and hot drink from the on-site cafe despite most items on the menu having sold out by 2 pm; eat early if you want lunch. Continuing down the lane that goes past Kelmscott Manor for a few hundred yards takes you to the River Thames. We were 'promised' otters and kingfishers but no such luck. Returning to the car park, we popped into the adjacent St George's Church (Photos 13 & 14) with its interesting wall paintings (Photo 15). The grave of William & Jane Morris (Photo 16) can be found behind a bay tree; their daughters, Jenny and May are also buried in the graveyard.

Photo 13: St George's Church, Kelmscott (exterior)

Photo 14: St George's Church, Kelmscott (interior)

Photo 15: Wall paintings, St George's Church, Kelmscott

Photo 16: Gravestone of William & Jane Morris

The entry ticket allowed repeat visits for the next 12 months so we will return at a later date. However, it was now time to drive on to our family get-together before it got dark.

Fallacious Reasoning

 The YouTube algorithm decided this short video was worthy of my attention. It was entitled Farmer DESTROYS VEGAN ACTIVIST in debate. You should watch the video first and then apply your critical thinking skills to see whether the farmer's argument was sound:


Did you spot the fallacious argument of the farmer? There are many types of fallacies and we are all guilty of using them because everyone likes to win an argument or debate. However, if we are after the truth, rather than just point scoring, then it is incumbent on both sides of a debate to avoid using these rhetorical devices.

In this case, the farmer is guilty of using the fallacy of suppressed evidence with a little added misdirection for good measure. While we cannot be sure what the debate was about, it appears to centre around the pros and cons of a vegan vs meat diet. The farmer presumably rears cattle, hence the reference to leather, and is getting some grief from the "vegan activist". Unfortunately, his retort equating the carbon footprint of artificial leather with a long-distance car journey (misdirection) ignores the obvious question. What is the carbon footprint of real leather? And is it more or less than vegan leather?

This well-balanced study goes with 17 kg CO₂e/m² for leather production if we ignore the 110 kg CO₂e/m² from the cattle rearing process itself. Intuitively, it seems reasonable to assign a proportion of the cattle rearing emissions to leather production - but how much? Taking a somewhat simplistic view by comparing the global market value of beef (USD 468 billion in 2021) with that of leather (USD 419 billion in 2021), somewhere between 40-50% would be a good first approximation. Even if you compare the global meat market (USD 897 billion in 2021), which includes fish products, the leather industry should still bear a significant proportion of the carbon emissions from animal husbandry. Leather and beef must be considered as co-products based on their similar market values and hence must share the carbon emissions attributed to the rearing of cattle. 

For comparison, vegan leather (aka faux, artificial and synthetic leather) made from fossil fuels has a lifetime carbon footprint of 15.8 kg CO₂e/m². This is slightly less than the quoted 17 kg CO₂e/m² for leather although a carbon footprint nearer 50 kg CO₂e/m² might be a more realistic value for real leather (i.e. including 30% of the animal husbandry carbon emissions). Plant-based 'leather' (e.g. hemp or fungi) has the potential for much lower carbon footprints.

Of course, it is a bit more complicated than that. Other factors to consider are water usage, animal welfare, land acreage needed, amount of wastage, ease of disposal, biodegradability, longevity, etc. Beyond the scope of this article, I'm afraid.

My personal preference, beltwise, is woven polyester; lightweight (40 g) compared with a leather belt (150 g) and last a lifetime (at least 40 years in my case). However, I must admit that I do also have two leather belts (one brown and one black) that see occasional use on more formal occasions.

In conclusion, the farmer was caught with his pants down (the wrong type of belt!) using a fallacious argument (suppressed evidence) and misdirection (car journey).

[Added note: it turns out the farmer is not a beef farmer but a goat farmer. Doesn't change the fact that his reasoning is fallacious but it is important to acknowledge errors] 



Garden Stew

My turn to make the dinner for tonight - vegan stew prepared in the slow cooker. First port of call - the kitchen garden to see what is available (Photo 1) ...

Photo 1: Freshly-picked Vegetables from the Kitchen Garden

In a clockwise direction starting with potatoes, French beans, red onion, garlic, courgette, spinach leaves, celery, beetroot and carrots (including at least one wonky carrot!). From the fridge, a bell/sweet pepper and two cucumber pieces that had been picked a week earlier (Photo 2) ...

Photo 2: Pepper & Cucumber grown in the Kitchen Garden

Due to a surfeit of cucumbers, I often cook them in stews, curries, pasta sauces, etc. Finally, a trip down to the freezers in the cellar to get the Jalapeno peppers we grew last year. There are remarkably few savoury meals that are not improved by a soup├žon of hot chilli spiciness.

Photo 3: Frozen Jalapeno Chilli Peppers grown in 2022

Preparation is simple enough: gently fry the chopped onions, garlic, courgette, bell pepper, cucumber, celery and Jalapeno in organic rapeseed oil for 10-15 minutes ...

Photo 4: Fry-up

... before adding diced root vegetables (carrots, beetroot, potato). I like to part-cook the vegetables in a microwave oven even when using a slow cooker - it ensures the root veggies are properly cooked and reduces the time needed for the slow cooking process. Two to four minutes in the microwave, depending on the quantity, is sufficient and the small amount of water used for microwave cooking is added to the frying pan to minimise loss of nutrients, etc. While the carrots are in the microwave, I'm preparing the potatoes, and when the potatoes are in the microwave, I'm preparing the beetroot, etc, etc. The chopped French beans and spinach can be added directly to the mixture or given a quick 2-minute blast in the microwave ...

Photo 5: Final Mixture Ready for the Slow Cooker

[Note: the strong red colour comes from the beetroot - I grow a mixture of coloured beets (white, yellow and red) so the final colour of the stew will depend on which beetroot I picked that day. Today was a red day!]

The contents of the pan are transferred to the slow cooker and left on the "low setting" for around 4 hours.

Photo 6: Start of Slow Cooking

Photo 7: Four Hours Later & Ready to Eat

The contents of this 3.5 litre slow cooker will provide about 3 days of evening meals - eat with bread, baked/mashed potato, rice, pasta, cous cous, etc. I added a few extra ingredients that were not from the kitchen garden: organic cannellini beans, vegan organic bouillon (one heaped tablespoon), some dried mixed herbs and freshly-ground pepper.

My biggest critic (Mary) confirmed the stew was tasty!!

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