Not a particularly inspiring title, but one to catch the eye of anyone thinking of doing what I have just done. While wondering how to provide a large woodland shelter I stumbled upon an article about using a surplus parachute. Then I Googled images and got a lot more… and then I bought a parachute… and then I put it up.
This is the result: I should have put something in the photo to show the scale. This thing is BIG! The bank on the right of the photo is at least 1m high, the chute itself is 7m (23ft) across, and the apex – at the suspension point – is between 3 and 4m above the ground. I set it up in the rain, hence the sag! It is not supposed to be waterproof but it kept me dry, it is ‘ripstop’ nylon and acts like a tent flysheet.
I have written this post because others who have erected these things seem to have had trouble. It can be done single-handed, like this:
For safety, don’t use a single branch right above the chute, sling the rope between trees, as high as you can get it.
Fix one or both ends of this suspension rope low down, so you can get at it, to tension it.
Slacken (lower) the rope. Decide where to fix the apex of the chute, then tie a loop knot in the rope and fix the apex to it. Haul the rope up again so the chute hangs down like a folded umbrella, and tie the rope in place.
(I bought a chute with long lengths of para cord still attached. If yours has none, you will have to fix cord to it, for guy lines).
Don’t randomly peg the lines out hoping to get it right, and don’t work your way around the perimeter. Instead, divide the number of para cords by four and fix these four first, like corners. This ensures everything is evenly spaced (for example, if there are 28 cords, peg out every seventh one at the ends of an imaginary cross + whose centre is under the apex – Simples!)
My concern is how the thing will cope with the high winds we get here. The guys are fixed to trees or to 2″x2″ wooden stakes driven in like tent pegs, but rather like with tents, I’m sure these will work loose. I suspect that in gales it will look like the Cutty Sark in full sail. Hopefully it will be relatively simple to lower the suspension rope to collapse it all. Fingers crossed… touch wood… etc.
‘Bridge to Nowhere demolished’ is how this video was announced on Yahoo. The only Bridge to Nowhere that I know of is the one we build last year at Whitmuir Organics. It is a bridge to nowhere because it is a viewing platform over a stream, with one end blocked by a tree and the other by a fence. In case you are wondering, the entrance is to the right of the tree. And, as far as I know, nobody has blown it up.
For the short video by Ohio Transportation, click here
If you keep up with my blogs (and a surprising number of people do) then you will know that recently I fell into a pond. Once upon a time (though this is not a fairy story) someone said to me (about someone else) ‘He was stupid to do that. He was even more stupid to tell everyone about it’. Stupid, yes. Had I remembered that piece of advice then I would have slunk home, dripping wet, showered and changed – as one does in such circumstances. Trouble was that Pete, the farmer at Whitmuir Organics, just happened to be mulching his apple trees when I walked past on the way to my car. My secret was out. No point hiding it. Big man falls in pond. Welly boots full to brim….
My brother (who, it seems, is one of the nice people who read my blog), has taken my welfare to heart. This Christmas I unwrapped a long, well-wrapped and very flexible present that, hopefully, I shall never have to use because the pond-dipping platform on the aforesaid pond now has a safety cable around it that unbalanced folk like me can grab on to (photo here).
The pond dipping platform at Middle Pond at Whitmuir Organics now has a hand rope with a steel core. It is ex-naval, the kind of thing that goes around the edge of yachts and it should stop me falling in again. The blue drums need to be wrapped to make them a bit more presentable. It means I’ll have to go in the pond again – though this time I’ll be wearing waders.
Yes, really. Not merely slipped off the side and got my feet wet, this was a roll-in-sideways job, fully clothed in overalls and welly boots. I decided the rain was too bad to work in and I went to stand up. I was kneeling, and I went to put my left leg on the sticky-out planks that you see in the photo… the planks I had just sawn off to make the platform into the shape of a tadpole.
The only other time I can remember falling into a pond was when I was three. They say you can’t remember things from that age but that just ain’t true, folks. I had a new pair of wellies and I was trying them out. I didn’t know that the pond would come over my boots and can remember them filling up with water. Then I fell forwards. I don’t remember anything else. I’m told that the gardener (no, not ours, we didn’t even have a garden. My mother was working as a housekeeper at the time) found me floating face-down and hauled me out.
Some pond-dipping platforms don’t have handrails. The one at Whitmuir Organics WILL have one….
This year’s uncharactiscally heavy rains have brought an unexpected problem. You have probably noticed that since postmen were told that the elastic bands used to bundle their letters are biodegradable they have taken to scattering them in the way Johnny Appleseed scattered seeds. Trouble is, rather like radioactive elements and their half-lives, they seem to take a million years to self-destruct. Even worse, spores from the little blighters get between the joints in my drive, and as you can see in the photo, they have begun to sprout. Any more weather like this and I shall be knee-deep in the things. I’m thinking of asking Whitmuir Organics if I can borrow their potato harvester.
The new pond at Whitmuir The Organic Place is beginning to look less like a reservoir on a construction site and more like a place to find wildlife. Today, in rare gaps between cloudbursts, we transplanted around seventy clumps of native Scottish wildflowers (Scotia Seeds Pond Edge Mixture, raised from seed). If the young plants manage to survive being planted into what looked to me rather like potters’ clay, they will eventually flower, self-seed and spread. Watch this space. Even better, if you are lucky enough to be anywhere near Edinburgh, Peebles, West Linton or Lamancha, go and see the new pond.
As you can see, our work was closely supervised by The Management: ‘Just what, exactly, are you doing at my pond, young lady? And what have you done with my ducks?‘
More about Whitmuir Wildlife here
Ever had the feeling you are being watched? I have. I was doing a bit of work at Whitmuir Organics recently when I heard snorting. It definitely wasn’t MI5 or the CIA (because I’m sure they would have made a much better job of sneaking up on me – and hopefully they don’t snort), it was this lot. By the time I scrambled up the bank of the burn where I was working and got my camera out, they had largely lost interest and were wandering away.
When they had all gone I had the strange feeling that I was trespassing.
I am old enough to remember the baker coming to my parents’ house with a basket of freshly baked bread on his arm. Like the milkman, he drove an electric van. I’m sure this practice continued in some country areas well after it ceased in cities like the one I lived in. Bread was bread. You bought it in… well, bread shapes, with square sides and crusty, risen tops. You could get small or large, brown or white. Then came sliced bread, which had to be wrapped, of course. The range on sale increased to include thick sliced or thin sliced. It no longer smelt, nor tasted, very much like bread – and it took around ten days to go mouldy. Because of that, and its lack of bread taste and bread smell, it didn’t seem much like food.
A few months ago I bought a loaf of real bread*. I don’t mean the kind of bread the baker used to bring round in his electric van, I mean the kind of bread people were eating before such vans were invented. The loaf I bought didn’t look particularly like bread (not rectanglar, not in floppy slices). Nor did it taste much like bread, not the kind of bread I had become used to, anyway. All I’m going to say about this bread is that since buying that first loaf I won’t even consider buying any other kind.
Here’s one I bought earlier:
I see there is a Campaign for Real Bread. When you get the page with the map, click on the ‘Real Bread’ (in green, under the map) to learn what real bread – and the other stuff – is.
It’s my own fault, I should have bought my spinach from Whitmuir, I just happened to be in Sainsburys when I thought of what to cook. Serves me right. It would probably be cheaper at Whitmuir, too.