Thursday, 30 July 2009

Rare Breeds Centre

Last week, when we had our friends visiting, we took the kids (Kezziah, Karis and Callum) to the Rare Breeds Centre, near Ashford. I think the highlight for me was the birds of prey, such as this Eagle Owl:When the smaller birds were out, they invited spectators to join in, Karis had this owl come nad land on her:
And she successfully launched it back into the air again:
My turn came with an American Harris Hawk though:
There was lots of other stuff there too, including animal pens you could go into for a closer encounter:
and various other farmyard creatures:
I was particularly impressed by the size of this boar:
There were a few exotics there too:
and away from the animals there was stuff like trailer rides:
and an assult course in the woods:
All in all a great day out, and I'd strongly recommend it, especially for kids.


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Our new Land Rover Defender!

For some time we've been aware of the shortcomings of our VW Polo getting in and out of the woods, and we've finally found the answer: a Land Rover Defender!
It's an ex-military Defender 90, built in 1992 and in private use since 2007. I think it's probably been to Iraq, given the colour, but it looks like any bullet holes have been patched up! We're picking it up in a week, by which time it will have had windows fitted in the sides at the back, a tow pack added and side steps bolted on.

Being an ex-military vehicle, it's very basic, I guess to keep cost down and improve reliability. It doesn't have a turbo on the engine, just a 4-cylinder 2.5l diesel, there's no power steering, the windows slide along and the interior has no trim or carpet - just bare painted metal.

On the plus side, the previous owner has put in some nice seats in the front along with a locking box between them, and side-facing bench seats in the back These aren't particularly comfortable, but will do for carrying an additional four adults on short trips, such as from home to the wood. It also comes with the larger size wheels on it already, and tyres with a mud-capable tread on them, which will come in useful I expect...

The downside of course is that it will only do 28mpg at best, compared to our Polo doing 55mpg. But on the other hand, it's so noisy and hard to drive in comparison, I think we'll be using the train and our electric bikes a lot more, so maybe our fuel consumption will actually go down... That's our intention at least, just using the Defender for trips where we really need it.


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Friday, 24 July 2009

Friends on the beach and in the wood

This week we had our friends the Clarkes visiting. I went to Oasis Trust college with Louise in the early nineties and then we shared a room in Cyprus for months. It was brilliant to see her whole family after spending very little time with them for 13 years! Really good to get to know their kids too. Lauren in the pictures is our friend from Rye, meeting the Clarkes.

We had a brilliant time on the beach, running from the tide coming in!

and trying to build castles that could withstand the sea. (not successfully!)
Naturally we spent time in the wood too. Tina, Jeff and Emma joined us too. Tina had also attended Oasis Trust with us, so it was a brilliant reunion with all the families that have developed since we were 20! Here is Jeff doing his continuing professional development. ;-)
While we watch!

Louise preparing wood for the winter, while Kezziah builds a house in the background.

I love the novel way the kids kept the smoke out of their eyes with the chainsaw helmet!

and the whole motley crew. Can you spot the ones that thought this was the silly photo?
Can't wait to see you all again soon!


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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Even more butterflies

Yesterday we were up at the wood for some friends visiting, and while we were waiting we did a bit of trimming of the vegetation at the side of the track in the wayleave:Along the way we saw dozens of butterflies - I think this year is much better for them than last year! Here's some pictures of them.

Meadow Brown's were abundant (you can identify them by the single white spot inside the black spot on their wings):
A butterfly that can look superficially similar with its wings shut is the Gatekeeper, but it has two white spots inside the black spot. With it's wings open it is quite different though - here's the first good photos I've had of one:
and I was especially pleased to get this picture of one taking off:
Another butterfly I got in flight was this Large White:
I got these photos of butterflies in flight by chance, but I'm trying to come up with a way of getting them deliberately... more to come if it works out!

And finally, this year's invasion of Painted Ladies continues unabated:
That's all for now.

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Blade-Tech knife sharpener review

Tracy brought me a present back from the show she went to in Yorkshire - a Blade-Tech knife sharpener. I think it's one of the coolest tools I've used in a long time! Here it is:
The two grey wedges are tungsten carbide, which is extremely hard and easily sharpens steel.

Here's a billhook that needs sharpening:
To use the sharpener on a straight blade, you hold it firmly on a flat surface:
In this case the edge of the billhook blade also need reshaping first, and this is done by drawing the blade through the "V" between the carbide blocks at a 45 degree angle:
Then, to hone the blade you move the angle towards 90 degrees:
Finally, in this case, to do the curved part of the blade, you have to hold the billhook towards you and draw the sharpener over it:
Then you're left with a nice sharp edge:

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