Lawn mower pit stop

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Is there anything worse than one old lawn mower.?

Yes most definitely….. two old lawnmowers.

I, or rather we, or rather George has successfully fixed, bodged and mended our ailing Countax mower for the last three years but a couple of weeks ago the drive gave up and the quote to repair was too much to bare. Faced with a 600 hundred quid repair bill I took a trip to town, to price up a replacement. With the cheapest version coming in at just over 2 Grand and an exact replacement at over 4, I took a trip to Mum and Dads to borrow their push along.

Having mowed the lawns with Mum and Dads push mower I soon realised that the grass was growing faster than I was cutting it and an alternative needed to be found. That’s when father in law came to the rescue with his disused ride on Hayter mower. At last a solution – or so I thought. But there were one or two minor problems that needed addressing first.

Firstly there were four flat tyres, then one flat battery and then a hole in the fuel tank but other than that it was like new. Well for a bit anyway.

It wasn’t long before our great green, free mowing solution decided it wouldn’t go forward without the cutting deck being in gear. ‘How weird,’ I thought to myself. When I opened the lid I could see the engine block was moving around more than the wheels themselves.  All the fixing bolts had dropped out.

It is at this point that I was beginning to wonder whether the cheapest and quickest solution would be to buy a new mower.  Would Father in laws cast off become an unviable project, consuming my time, money and my least abundant of assets, patience.

I’m not sure as of yet, but for the sake of getting the grass mown, George and I spent the afternoon lying underneath the mower getting dowsed by passing showers. Alongside his engineering skills, George has now surely learnt my full and extensive vocabulary of profanities which were generous applied throughout the afternoon.

As things stand our ‘new mower is equipped with an old tractor battery and a temporary fuel tank strapped to the back of the seat. What could possibly go wrong?

 

 

 

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Posted in Accidents and brakedowns, Doh, Machinery | Leave a comment

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

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Tax doesn’t have to be taxing – or so says HMRC, the government authority on all things taxable. I remember seeing the HMRC advert on the tele, explaining how easy it was to submit a self assessment form or family tax credits and thinking – what a load of bollocks.

I know how my heart sinks when I spy the brown envelope on my desk from the revenue with its ominous, dark, bold print. But my mood deteriorates further when I open it open.

“What the hell is this – I thought I’d paid that once” Pause for thought ” Oh, its not a bill, its a statement – oh no, hang on a minute its an amendment” Pause for further thought. “Or is it?”

Is there anyone out there, except my accountant, that truly understands the inland revenue and its phenomenally complex rules structure? Paye, working and family tax credits, income tax, national insurance contributions, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, corporation tax, petroleum revenue tax and stamp duty – bloody hell, its seems never ending.

Well perhaps it is because according to a recent article in Moneyweek magazine the UK’s Tax code is ten million words long, requiring 21,000 pages of space and is the longest tax code in the world.

So what does ten  million words look like? Well remember the Chilcot report that took seven years to complete about the Iraq war? Its four times the length of that. Have you read War and peace, the worlds longest book? No? Nor me. Its 9 times the length of that. Or the bible? Nor me either. Its 12 times the length of that.

The inland revenues tax code is some formidable document. So formidable in fact that individuals study for years to be proficient in merely one small area of its responsibilities.

Of course it hasn’t always been this way and much complexity has been added in recent history by every Chancellor of the Exchequer since Norman Lamont back in 1993 who actively attempted to simplify it. But its been all downhill since then with Gordon Brown, our very own banisher of boom and bust, actually trebling Tax legislation.

A few years later George Osborne took office, promising to simplify taxation and even set up the Office of Tax Simplification. He managed to double the legislation.

I wasn’t expecting much from Phillip Hammond and a good job too as the country is as good as broke with its oversized debt and structural deficit. But one thing he could and should have provided was simplicity. Hong Kong is agreed by international tax lawyers to be the most efficient tax regime in the world. At 151,000 words,  their tax code is one sixty sixth the size of ours which is like comparing a mouse to an elephant. Consequently their admin costs are tiny in comparison and their tax regime is comprehensible – unlike ours.

Am, I the only one who thinks that they may be onto something here?

If the revenue reckon that ‘tax doesn’t have to be taxing’ they should take some advice from Hong Kong and use a phrase from America and….

‘Keep it simple stupid’.

 

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Posted in Rant, The Farm | Leave a comment

Cows out good. Card failure bad.

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March 13th

There isn’t much that can spoil the occasion of turning the cows out to grass. It has to be my favourite job of the year.

This has been our shortest Winter ever in terms of days spent inside but that doesn’t lessen the fun of letting the cows going outside or their initial excitement.

Although – it has become more complicated than just opening the gates and letting them go.

The last three years I have videoed their release and put the footage on you-tube. I have also endeavored to take some snaps at the same time, usually off the back of the quad as the cows charge down the lane towards the field.

It takes about forty minutes to put the fences right, mount the Go Pro on the back of the bike and set up my SLR. Preparation is everything especially for someone of my limited ability with a camera. There is more to go wrong than right when using a camera and there is only one chance to capture those special moments.

 

So whilst I’m fiddling around with the cameras and the motorbike the cows are stood there weighing the situation up. They won’t have seen or heard the bike for some time so that brings some interest and  its not long before they are crowded around the fence in anticipation. They may not be the most advanced of thinkers but they are not daft and they soon know whats going on.

It only takes a few of the sharper bovine minds to twig and start bawling in anticipation and the whole herd are joining in a deafening chorus.

When I open the gates, I have to be careful not to get trampled in the rush.

With the camera rolling on the back of the quad, I drive a few yards in front of the cows to capture their excitement.

The cows break out into a full blown gallop, charging down the lane clumsily like bobbing rocking horses. There is a strong comic element to their manic running style and its hard not to laugh.

This level of excitement in cows only happens on two occasions – spring turnout or when they break into the neighbours wheat field.

In terms of video worthiness on the farm this has to be the pinnacle.

So when the skipping and galloping eventually stopped as the cows put their heads down to graze, you can imagine my thoughts when I switched off record mode and found an error message flashing across the screen.

‘Video error’ or something similar was flashing on the display. Shortly followed by ‘video repair failed’ and then ‘video deleted’. I was stunned.

I couldn’t believe it. By far the best video footage of the year disappears in the blink of an eye. What a disaster.

I hurriedly checked through the menu to find the file but memory card was blank. Later on in the day I took the card out of the camera for my son George to check to see if there were any files to be salvaged but they were all gone.

So unfortunately my favourite day of the year was spoiled somewhat and footage of the cows being released was limited to a few snaps taken by me whilst riding the bike up the lane.

Worse still, the problem couldn’t be blamed on the stupid GoPro or the stupid memory card. I hadn’t formatted it after it was last used and there was nobody else to blame except myself. It’s a mistake that I won’t be making again.

Nevertheless I can bring you last years turnout video instead – in case you haven’t already seen it!

 

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Still on Winter power

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Its around this time of year when the solar panels come into their own in terms of producing power to run the most electricity thirsty apparatus on the farm.

The ice bank compressor and water heater draw the most power here and run off cheap rate grid electricity at night, during the Winter time (when the sunlight is too weak and intermittent to run the panels).

The graph below shows the power produced by the panels on the second of March. We need about 10 kilowatts of power for 8 hours of the day from the panels to run the water heater and ice bank coolers, saving two thirds of our electricity bill.

 

The chart above shows the power produced on a sunny day.

However, despite the power curve covering our electricity demands in early March, it is still too soon to rely on the solar.

Here’s what happened the next day when it rained.

 

Not much.

As you can see I’d have struggled to charge my electric tooth brush that day. On the face of it it looks that solar panels are okay until it rains but the biggest problem in March is that the sun is still too low in the sky to provide enough energy in poor weather.

The graph below was from four weeks later – also on a rainy day with some sunny spells. The difference here is that by in large, the solar panels didn’t dip below the 10 kilowatt mark, allowing solar to provide the bulk of the daytime power without using expensive daytime grid electricity.

 

In reality the solar panels can produce plenty of power for the farm but not enough to cover the winter demand without relying heavily on grid electricity.  To be grid free, would require a solar plant at least four times the size of our current one and would still fail to produce enough power on a wet day in December.

If solar power is going to have a big future in this part of the world, it will have to be alongside some serious levels of battery storage too.

 

 

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Posted in Technology, The weather | Leave a comment

Idiots

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Posted in Doh | Leave a comment