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I put new cams in my bike to give better mid range power, and went for a run in the glorious sunshine to make sure everything was fine. Ended up going a route that took me past where "it all began".

Andra (Andrew) Cochran's at Roundyhill. One shed, surprisingly still standing.


There used to be another two to the left. Always something ratty and interesting to be had, Rudges, Norton's, etc. I once bought a Triumph Grand Prix for £30, and rode it home 17 miles when I was 14. There was a huge pot belly stove in the remaining shed, which was always on in the winter, and the place was lit with paraffin lamps. This was in the 1970's ! The last time I was there would have been over 35 years ago when I went to see " Andra's" brother after he died.


There are many television programs showing entertaining viewing about surviving alone in the wilderness, but you know that somewhere out of camera, is a truck load of supplies. The o!d, "now if this goes wrong I'm in serious trouble" is nonsense, are the camera team really going to run away and leave you ?

Back when the world was a safer place, me and my pals would take off during school holidays and wild camp. Basic tents, fishing rods to catch fish to eat, and a diet of beans and soup. We were ten years old. At that time, the old style tramp was still a common sight, some of these guys would hide when they saw us, but others would come and talk, and teach us skills. What I realise now is that many of these men were suffering from post traumatic stress, as a result of what they'd been through in the second world war, and couldn't cope with "ordinary" life.

What the television programs often omit to highlight, is that the people who lived in the way they are trying to show, were more often that not, p!$$ poor, so no high priced Scandinavian hand made axe's, or hand made bushcraft knives. The tools they used were, cheep, modified or home made. Here's a commercially available cooking tripod.



Here's a home made "snotrum" made from a length of rebar, that was given to me by an old traveller.



Cutting tools are always a case for great debate. I found that a £10 "Bolo" from El Salvador is perfect for my needs. It'll take an edge like a knife, and cut like an axe.


For cutting larger wood, a cheap "open" chainsaw chain with home made handles works perfect. £8 worth.


and for a comfortable nights sleep, forget about high tech self inflating sleep mats. An old jute sack stuffed with heather works fine, and it rolls up nice and small. A word of warning though, avoid Bracken.



Also a must, a tick hook.


Regardless of how hot the weather may be, I always wear full length trousers, and knee length socks to avoid picking up these evil b@$tards, but even after taking these precautions, I've still had to remove them from my stomach area and back.

My Polish army tent was successful, but heavy and bulky. Next trip I'll go back to using my "parachute" tipi. It can sleep six and it is light and packs small.



The Gask Ridge.

After a pleasant night under canvas, the day is decidedly dreich. Overcast and rain. Today's journey is to the nearest town via the Gask Ridge and an old drovers track. From above Auchterarder to Perth.


The Ridge is around ten miles long, and was fortified around ten years before Hadrian's Wall was built, and is believed to be Rome's earliest fortified frontier. There was a system of towers strategically placed along its length, the foundations are still clear to see.


The road connecting them now forms part of the modern local road system.




Onto the drovers track.



Anyone who's into woodwork and burrs?


Altogether a round trip of about 22 miles, and even in the pouring rain, enjoyable. I'm not using any high tech clothing. Oiled sailcloth cape and wool layers on top, wool still retains its thermal qualities when wet. For the better weather, a ventile shirt does fine. Next time I'm going to use my Kelly Kettle. The wood gas stove is too slow.


More to follow. :)


I got this book years ago, its a 1975 edition of an original print from 1947 briefly mapping old Scottish drove roads.


Over the years I've worked my way through some if them, and where overnight stays have been necessary I've always used the latest high tech camping gear, but this year it's retro only. Tent is ex Polish army canvas. I've had it up in all weathers and has been 100% waterproof, and goes up in less than 2 minutes. Walking pole in the center, and no guy ropes.



Tried out a "wood gas stove" which is just a posh version of the old travellers "coffee can stove" it works, not as quick as my Kelly kettle, but takes up less room when packed.


These tracks were regularly used in rural areas well into the twentieth century as part of the "Bona Fide traveller" loophole in the licensing laws.



Prior to 1962, hotels were permitted to open on Sundays to supply drinks to bona fide travellers. From 1962, they were allowed to open on Sundays for all customers. However public houses were not included, and remained closed; under the 1976 Licensing (Scotland) Act, public houses could apply for permission to open on Sundays

A bona fide traveller was someone who had travelled three miles, signed the register, and indicated an intention to travel a further three miles. This led to deliberate excursions for a drink by those who would not have considered such a course of action in their home town on a Sunday, in the climate of the times. It led indeed to drinking and driving (then more common at all times) and to merry parties on the last buses home. The further three miles was rarely travelled.

My pals dad used to walk through mountain tracks some fourteen miles round trip for a dram every Sunday.

Back to "today". I can carry enough for two days in my pack and it'll be interesting to see if I can still manage twenty five miles comfortably.



Here's my first torch, definitely older than me, and works perfectly well, on paraffin.


My next one is this, now converted to run off a led gell battery and fitted with a three watt Cree bulb. It gets charged via a solar panel. Both simple.



Now this. Modern technology, adjustable beam, an array of settings; high beam, low beam, strobe, and S.O.S flash mode.


What a pain in the @r$e. :angry:


I detect a certain degree of crabbieness at this time of year, so looking for a cure, I discovered that the term should be "lobsterness" as they seem to require more cheering up due to the wide variety of lobster tickle sticks available.


So any forum member suffering from lobsterness send me your coordinates and I shall endeavor to "post" a tickle stick.


U.K. delivery guaranteed same hour, and proven to be a satisfactory homeopathic alternative to proprietary drugs and alcohol.



Annual morning trip to the lochside.



Met up with good friends, and sadly reminisced about those who are no longer here.

This year, I have ordered some portable digital recording gear, and as part of the community collaborative I take part in, I am going to start a social history project, all recordings done with real people. We did a trial last year which was a great success. It's all about the history of reality of life, which all too easily gets lost and forgotten.


My first experience of work was delivering this stuff, at the age of 11.


Most of the households round about relied on it for heating, and some for cooking as well.

Paraffin ovens like this one were quite common.


The drums held 5 gallons / 25 litres, so a full one including the weight of the drum was around 26 kilos, and I used to carry two at a time. I remember there being a huge outcry when the price went from 1 shilling (5 pence) to 1 shilling and 3 pennies. A lot of the local households still relied on paraffin lamps as well. The old Tilley lamps were the best and brightest, but made a continuous annoying hiss. As did the Tilley heaters.



I've still got all this stuff, and it still works. Yesterday I was reading about all the household appliances that are now controlled via phone apps, but I can't find one for my phone that operates an axe.


The area I live in had no mains electricity before 1965. I still heat my workshop with a homemade indirect kerosene heater, so the fumes all go outside, and it doesn't suffer from condemnation like the old days. Simplicity does have it's benefits.:yes: Even if it means getting up at 5 am to get the stove going for hot water.


The secret society of the Scottish estate gardener is a little know subject that I shall now offer, at risk to my personal safety, a little insight.

  In days gone by, an apprentice gardener would be carefully vetted and chosen by the estate factor, more commonly known as the "wee laird" or " the lairds sooker". Once employed the new boy would be handed down a simple bonnet as uniform, from a previous worker. These bonnets always showed signs of wear and alterations as a result of being passed down over the years from employees with different head sizes. The bonnet would have to be worn at all times and failure to do so always resulted in summary dismissal.


During the first two years the new boy would be given such tasks as emptying the estate septic tanks by hand to prepare compost for the greenhouse hot boxes.



Once two years were in, the apprentice would then be handed down a uniform simple flat cap, again for another employee who had moved up the ladder so to speak.


No longer the new boy, the apprentice gardener would now be allowed to handle dung unsupervised, be taught the art of trampling and turning over the compost heap, and the luxury of staying all night in the greenhouse during winter, having to stoke the boiler every hour to ensure the correct temperature was kept.

  After completing his apprenticeship, the journeyman gardener would be presented, by the Lairds wife, a new, dark coloured eight piece cap.


This entitled him to be shouted at by the head gardener without delegation, and the privilege of cleaning tools and equipment, and the head gardeners wellington boots, (inside and out) and properly lining the insoles with straw during the winter months.

  Only after reaching the age of fifty five could the journeyman gardener reach the heady heights of Head Gardener. This involved a secret initiation, followed by a public celebration of the award of the "Scone Bonnet". This bonnet, always oversized and exclusively made from Harris Tweed, would be presented, almost like a Knighthood, by the Laird himself, with a speech in old Scots Gaelic.


Here is a quote from the history of Harris Tweed:

Waulking the Fabric



Waulking has two important effects. Firstly it cleanses the cloth and eliminates excess lanolin, oils, dirt, and other impurities. And secondly, it makes the material softer and thicker.

Originally this was done by literally ‘walking’ (i.e. treading) the fabric in water, perhaps treated with a proportion of URINE for its ammonia as a cleansing agent. But don’t worry, nowadays the process involves nothing more than pure water.


Because of the ancient preparation of the tweed, the head gardener would now always be affectionately referred to as " the big piss head "

  Many of Scotland's estate gardens open to the public still adopt this little-known practice, and tradition, so any of you who are lucky enough to visit these beautiful locations in full bloom, always look out for the man with the big Harris Tweed bonnet, and ask him " are you a big piss head" spectators will always find the response amazing.


For that final cut, first the leaves decending from my ash trees require collecting, there are various forms of equipment for the job, here is my preference. It has served me well over the years.


Next, the proper equipment for that low impact cut, and compaction to ensure perfect stripes.



Mrs Wrench is barely 5ft 2" and size 8, but she swings a mean axe. Apparently as an end of day therapy for anger management. Oak being her choice to split, but on inspection I noticed my vintage Canadian Black Prince axe head has been coming into contact with stones as I was unable to shave with it this morning. So it looks like more tool service tomorrow. Had a camera malfunction so no pics, as I was going to show "Roger" my mower.:wicked: New card ordered, and my diamond file and axe stone at the ready. Hopefully all will be working again soon.


Service day.

As I live off grid and the daylight hours are failing, reducing the reliance on solar power for the next few months, it's time to give the old diesel generator a service. So that's my job today. I made the genny 29 years ago out of a 1968 Lister LR 1 engine driving a 12 volt alternator, charging a battery bank, which in turn supplies the house with 240V a.c. via a step up D.C. to A.C. inverter, and 12 V D.C. with the huge jumps in technology over the past few years and the increase in L.E.D. lighting and usb powered equipment, it means my reliance on 240 volts is now almost nil, and instead of having a huge battery bank, I can now rely on two 120 amp leisure batteries working independently and charged via a split charge relay. When wind and solar charging is not available, I only have to run the genny for 5-6 hours every 3 or 4 days. It runs on recycled cooking oil, and burns about 5 litres every 18 hours of running. So that's pretty economical. I've just got a new digital radio that runs off a usb plug, and I've got some usb powered lights on test just now to see what the power drain is like over the period of a week.

Pic for reference.


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