Silas Silage’s October gardening notes

With Autumn setting in, our resident expert SILAS SILAGE offers advice on what to do with your surplus fruit.

Silas Silage
"There’s a loud bang and the roof of the shed has gone"

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is with us, and it’s the latter I’m going to deal with today. Thanks to the warm spring and the late summer showers, the apple trees are laden with fruit, the hedgerows are groaning with blackberries and sloes, while rose hips dance a scarlet fandango in the golden sunset. (Oh please! –Ed).

Most years, there’s so much stuff, it’s always a problem knowing what to do with it. This year, the problem is epic.

Although I’m a countryman , I’ve always been a bit of a scientist at heart. Looking at an old copy of “Whisky News” the other day I had an idea. A quick call to my mates at Porton Down and Aldermaston, and a surplus titanium pressure vessel and plenty of copper and stainless steel piping is on its way to me. A day later, with some help from my neighbour, who knows a bit about welding, we have constructed an “essential oil distillation unit”. Wink wink.

Productivity is vital if you’re going to shift any volume, so I’ve incorporated some ideas of my own. I got an old bath from the scrapyard in which to cut up  the fruit and let it ferment. This is fed directly into the pressure vessel, allowing continuous production.

There’s a super cooler adapted from an old watering can, and the Primus burner is fuelled directly with the unwanted poisonous alcohols which are produced as a by product. No one can accuse me of not being environmental!

Now it’s time to fire it up, and off we go. All that lovely fruit and veg, distilled down to a pure essence, easy and economic to store, nutritious, wholesome, non-perishable,  I could go on. (Spare us, please –Ed)

She fires up well, and has soon reached the operating temperature. Load the fermented fruit and off we go. As soon as steam comes out, we bring on the supercooler to condense the vapour. The first stuff to come out is the unwanted impure alcohol, and this goes straight back into the primus tank. Just turn the nozzle. It’s very flammable, and you have to be careful.

There’s a loud bang and the roof of the shed has gone. Never mind, I’ll fix it later. For behold, out of the nozzle, a few sacred drops are spouting. Collect in a glass, add ice, lemon and dry ginger, and you have the perfect antidote to the coming winter.

Owing to a design fault, (I think he forgot a collecting jar- Ed) the only way I can collect the distillate as it comsh out is in individ… indi… shingle glasses, and owing to lack of a storage vessel, the only way I can keep up with the flow ish to drink it,  and I musht shay it’s very good stuff, have another and, woops, I can see the open shky, coming out fashter now, woops, no way of turning it off, have another, quickly, woops! oh dear, oh dear me, dear me, woops! …..
(To be continued – Ed)

Battle re-commences at Silton Windpower site

Silton Wind Turbine
View from the B308 near West Bourton

The developers of the proposed  wind generation farm at Silton, which was thrown out by North Dorset Council in March, have appealed, and there will now be a public enquiry.

The proposal was resisted by every parish in the area, and by neighbouring South Somerset District Council.

The proposal was for  four 120-metre tall wind turbines at Silton, between Bourton and Gillingham.
The developers claim Dorset needs more renewable energy and the four turbines would produce enough energy to power 6,700 homes while saving 10,000 tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere for the next 25 years.
Objectors say that the proposal will spoil the landscape,  will detract from the setting of adjacent historic properties, and will adversely affect the visual amenities and businesses (including tourism) near the proposed site.
Unfortunately the fact that these things only work at about 20 per cent of their capacity, but provide a taxpayer-funded payout to the developer and the landowner is not a planning issue.
The latest application received more than 1,700 letters of objection and was rejected by every parish council in the area and by neighbouring  South Somerset District Council before North Dorset’s refusal.
An action group Save Our Silton was formed to fight the plan .They are holding a  meeting for anyone interested in opposing the appeal at Bourton School at 7 pm on Friday 21st October
Representations must be made to the planning inspectorate* by 3rd November. If you have written previously, your original letter will form part of the evidence to be submitted to the inspector.
The date of the enquiry is yet to be announced. There are now 2 wind farm appeals in Dorset – the other is at Wareham.
* The Planning Inspectorate,
3/20 Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol, BS1 6PN

Villager Magazine – a reader writes

Dear Sir or Madam,
I was intrigued to see that I can now download a copy of the “Villager” magazine from the Wincanton Window website, but not from the Horsington Blog. Can you explain?

A Reader

We don’t know. It is of course possible that the Villager magazine is unaware of our existence. As far as we know, everyone in Horsington and South Cheriton now gets the magazine delivered to their door, but you know how it is -you need to refer to it immediately after you used it to light the fire. So, as a service to our readers we are including a permanent link to the latest downloadable version in our “Blogroll” (right hand column.)

Incidentally, we  have included a link to the excellent Wincanton Window ever since our launch.- Ed.

News from the Party conferences: Labour

The Blog is indebted to our new political correspondent, Professor Dave Wonk of the lefty think tank “New Thought”, who has travelled up to Liverpool (at his own expense) for the Labour Party conference. He writes “ Liverpool is an exciting city and just the place for
the exciting re-birth of the labour movement, where we’re all very excited about the exciting prospect of smashing the discredited Cameronian-Cleggist  junta ….”

I have cut the rest . But I append one of Profesor Wonk’s slides from a fringe meeting where he outlined the evolution of the labour movement since the last general election. It really does help us to  understand what’s going on -EdThe evolution of political movements -labour

Richard Lennox Recital, Wincanton Methodist Church, Saturday October 1st

The multi-talented Somerset musician Richard Lennox will give a recital of piano and organ music at Wincanton Methodist Church on Saturday 1st October at 6.30 pm.

Richard Lennox is a highly regarded musician performing concerts throughout the UK, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. In the UK he has recently played as soloist at venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Manchester Bridgewater Hall, St David’s Hall Cardiff, Birmingham NEC, Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Edinburgh Festival – and now Wincanton.

His unique talent includes the piano, organ, keyboards, double bass, composing and arranging.

In aid of brain tumour research in young people in memory of Alfie Morland, grandson of recital organiser Paddy Hughes.

Tickets £10 each

Paddy Hughes: 01963-370323 or Rita Hibberd: 01963-32039

BloggoVision Extra – See Richard Lennox rehearsing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for a concert at theRoyal  Albert Hall.

More on Templecombe: Ticket office to become an “assisted channel”

Templecombe is just one of 600-odd stations whose ticket office is threatened with closure. Another is Rotherham, where the ticket office has been closed for rebuilding, and the locals are concerned that it might not re-open. (Compare Templecombe, where the associated signal box will close at some point in the future, and then what will happen to the ticket office?).

At Question Time on the 15th October, at about the same time as SW Trains’ Andy Pitt was telling us there were no plans to close the Templecombe ticket office, The Transport Secretary, Phil Hammond. was telling the House of Commons that ownership of stations was being transferred to the train operators “so that they can have a more direct, hands-on involvement”  Translation: Can shut ticket offices without any reference to Government or Network Rail –Ed

Rotherham’s MP, Dennis MacShane, told the Minister “many constituents do not do computers and need help and aid”.

The Minister agreed –well sort of. “I agree there will be the need for assisted channels”.

Mr MacShane: “Assisted channels?” (possibly uttered like Lady Bracknell’s “A handbaaag?”)

Mr Hammond: “I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what assisted channels are. Even as the purchase of tickets, over time, is bound to become more computer based, as new technologies are deployed and more tickets are bought online, through mobile technology and so on, there will still be a need for an assisted channel, and we will ensure that there is one. Translation: We will regard people who do not like computers or ticket machines as disabled and provide limited, minimal facilities at inconvenient times (or rather times which are convenient to the train operator, but not to anyone else –Ed

Unfair? Cynical? We shall see. Watch this space.

South West Trains answers Templecombe ticket office question

Templecombe station
The golden days of Templecombe (Photo: © Rabbi WP Thinrod and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence)

We asked  a direct question regarding the possible closure of Templecombe station ticket office and got the following reply from SW Trains Managing Director Andy Pitt during the “Live web chat” on September 15:

“We have no plans to close Templecombe ticket office. We will be revising the opening hours following the Network Rail closure of the signal box and the withdrawal of their staff who currently retail tickets at this location. At this time I do not have a date when the Network rail box will close, but the ticket office opening hours will not be changed until after this date.”

In response to an earlier general question, Mr Pitt said “We have no immediate plans to implement the recommendations made in the McNulty report, but will continue to review opening hours across our network at every ticket office to ensure they reflect the commercial demands of the market.

“Available sales channels for customers to purchase rail tickets have grown significantly over the last few years because of new technology, and whilst ticket offices will still play their part, customer demand dictates that we continue to retail in the most cost-effective way”.

We say – not having plans to close it does not mean it will stay open for ever. We think rail users should keep up the pressure, and would urge our local politicians to keep an eye on the situation.

See earlier post

New Parliamentary constituency proposed for the Blackmore Vale

Map for the new constituency

Voters in Horsington will become part of a new parliamentary constituency to be called Glastonbury & Wincanton, replacing the existing Somerton & Frome constituency.

The new constituency will have 75,231 voters from the Mendip and South Somerset District Council areas.

The proposals by the Boundary Commission now go into an extensive consultation stage, and the final parliamentary map will be resolved by the end of 2013.

Anyone can comment or make alternative suggestions. See the Boundary Commission’s website.

Perhaps someone from the main political parties can tell us how this will affect the political make up of the area?

Otherwise your long-suffering editor (who hates politics) will have to do it -Ed


Horsington Parish Church for sale

Horsington Church
Horsington Church, painted by Philp Rawlings

Or rather a charming picture, painted by Cucklington artist Philip Rawlings, which will be offered for auction at the Sunday charity quiz and auction at the Half Moon on Sunday 25 September.

Also on sale will be lots of delicious cakes and local produce, including an industrial block of cheese. Mouse farmers please note.

The quiz will be set by Landlord Andrew, and the usual close finish is anticipated.

It’s all in aid of Cancer Research

The full size original is currently on view at the Half Moon -Ed