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Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Pontypool Park

Conservation Posted on Fri, March 08, 2019 09:53PM

There were lots of fallen leaves in the park today, but this one stood out for marking the progress of a leaf miner. According to Wikipedia the larva responsible could be that of a moth, sawfly, fly, or beetle. Photo of leaf underside here.

I also found a stone arbour, which has been reconstructed about a mile away from its original position. It has good views to the south towards the Bristol Channel.

Hair Ice, South Wales, Jan 2019

Conservation Posted on Sun, January 06, 2019 11:00PM

I was lucky to find some “hair ice” formations in near-freezing conditions in south Wales UK on 4 & 5 Jan 2019. These looked like snow from a distance, but it hadn’t snowed, just cold nights down to about -2C.

It’s also known as “cotton candy” or “candy-floss” ice, and according to reports on the internet require certain fungi to form. Growing on dead beech tree logs in this case.

Play my video

Another person’s video of hair ice forming

Decarbonising a Small 2-Stroke Engine (Decoke)

Tools Posted on Sat, January 06, 2018 02:50PM

An old brushcutter engine had carbon deposits in the top of the cylinder and piston, and in the exhaust port. It was decided to try to remove this because any dislodged pieces might damage the engine. For this I used some carburettor cleaner which slightly softened the carbon, a perspex scraper and fibreglass tip “pen”. Of course it’s essential not to damage the cylinder or piston, so using any tools harder than the cylinder/piston metal isn’t recommended. The perspex is quite hard, part of an off-cut, and can be cut to shape with a hacksaw. The fibreglass “pen” is usually used to clean circuit boards etc., but worked well as a second stage tool here (the fibres are a health hazard to skin, eyes).

After a couple of hours most of the carbon was removed, except for some very hard material at the top of the cylinder, some of which was embedded in pit-damaged areas which will have to stay as it is. Some 1200 grade emery paper was used to lightly polish the piston (after photo was taken).

Of course this is also a good time to check the condition of the crankshaft, bearings, and wear on the cylinder, piston and rings, also that the ring(s) can move freely in their groove(s).

The engine seemed to run more smoothly after doing this, but it could be my imagination … at least it ran.

The main tools used, plus carburettor cleaner

Getting Wintry

Wildlife Posted on Thu, December 14, 2017 03:55PM

I prefer to write “wintery” but that’s out of fashion it seems.
It’s mid-December and roses are still trying to flower, adding some welcome colour in the garden. Time now especially to feed wild birds, and it seems a squirrel, seen in a local garden …
Trying to discourage all but small birds, this cage within a cage works quite well (outer part is a cylindrical piece of wire mesh).

Busy Bees

Wildlife Posted on Thu, March 09, 2017 09:25PM

It was around 15C today (9 March 2017), which brought out quite a few large bumble bees onto my winter flowering heather. I haven’t identified the species yet – most were as shown in photos and the video. I’ve put this post into the “Wildlife” category, but the situation was my garden, and the food plant is not native to UK. I wonder how the bees are managing in our disappearing and fragmented countryside …

Play Video

Hawthorn Growth Buds

Conservation Posted on Sat, February 11, 2017 10:08PM

I was impressed to see over 30 new buds springing from the stump of a young hawthorn tree I had severely pruned (planted in wrong place, oops). This was about 2.5 months after cutting. I believe these are termed adventitious buds, which are dormant buds springing into action if the tree is wounded, for example by incompetent gardeners, or more planned activities like coppicing and hedge laying.
Feb 2017 +2.5 months after pruning

I’m hoping to keep the tree small in case the roots damage a nearby wall, and I intend to add photos to update the tree’s progress in surviving my pruning.
One of many information sourses on www

April 2017 +5 months after pruning (shoots ~ 20cm long)

July 2017 +8 months after pruning (shoots ~ 30-40cm long)

Blue Fungus (Cobalt Crust)

Wildlife Posted on Mon, December 19, 2016 03:04PM

I was impressed with this blue fungus growing on an oak post, initially thought it might be a lichen. A Gwent Wildlife Trust person suggested it could be Cobalt Crust fungus (Terana caerulea), later confirmed by the Gwent Fungus Group who recorded the apparently rare find. More photos can be seen here:

One of many information sources on www

Beware the Bargains

Shopping - Finance Posted on Sat, December 10, 2016 05:40PM

… and not only the “bargains”, things with price labels different to that charged at the till.

I’ve noticed in recent years that down-marked price labels in particular don’t always match those charged at the till in some grocery stores (parts of large chains, for example SPAR). These are sometimes known as “convenience” stores, to whose benefit I wonder sometimes. In a recent example, a printed discount label for an item showed a shelf price of £2.00, but I was charged the original price of £2.50 (shown on the receipt). When I queried this, saying a similar thing had happened many times before in that store, I was told that it was up to the customer to check that they were charged the correct amount! The story has often been – “there’s a problem with the computer”, “it’s not updating properly” or something similar. Stated discounts for multiple buys are sometimes not applied.

I expect this could be a widespread practice, but I haven’t noticed problems with larger stores, maybe they can afford better “computers”. One day I may spend an hour or two filling out the rather large Trading Standards report form. In a recent purchase at a Londis store I was overcharged at the till for a loaf of bread. When I pointed out the discrepancy the assistant smiled sweetly and said that’s what it says on the till, didn’t offer a refund, thus breaking trading law – training required?

It’s obvious to me that in most cases this is not a genuine mistake. For one thing the price at the till is always higher than that marked in my experience. It’s organised theft. The shops rely on customers not counting up their bill, and even if they do not wanting to quibble and hold up the queue or create a fuss. Customers could be especially vulnerable at petrol stations for one example.

PS: I just heard a whisper that I’m not “one of the best” customers of a store with poor price labelling and charging co-ordination performance. So to be “one of the best” customers one has to behave in what manner I wonder. Probably to not notice or complain about pricing discrepancies would help. Not wishing to be a sub standard customer I’ll avoid this store.

Update 13 Feb 2017:

An example of what can happen reported by the BBC (I haven’t noticed a problem with this store chain myself):
Tesco customers overcharged by out-of-date offers

As of 14 Feb the above article has 845 comments, some criticising the BBC for pointing this out (shareholders I guess). It’s not just Tesco of course. I first noticed this as a regular occurence in around 2008/9, perhaps it was no co-incidence there was a serious economic downturn at the time.

Update August 2020

… and another thing, I’m using contactless card payments now as advised, and it has been working well. I ask for a receipt so that I can check against my monthly statement, a waste of paper maybe. Now I’ve been refused a receipt after 100s of purchases in dozens of shops. The shop assistant said only Merchant Receipts are produced for contactless. That’s incorrect: their payment provider states merchant and customer purchases can be printed from their terminals, the latter if requested for contactless. Bizarrely it seems that there is no legal obligation to give a customer a receipt for goods (not sure about services), but why would a business refuse to do so? Cost of paper/ink? Also, this shop kept their terminal to themselves, and manually typed in the sales amount which I couldn’t see before presenting my card. I should have asked to see the amount, but I don’t like to, and why keep it hidden? I guess the answer is to avoid shops with these practices.

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