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Long term review of Tea Pigs

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It’s been quite some time now since I wrote my original review on Tea Pigs, so it’s about time I revisited that review.    So I’m still a big fan of the Redbush tea – the Rooibos crème caramel is still part my daily routine, especially when working late into the night.

That smell of the caramel with the Redbush is just amazing.  There are quite a few others now jumping onto this band waggon now – with Redbush flavours popping up all over.  Even the big brands are starting to introduce options.  But even their vanilla flavours have nothing on the Tea Pigs crème caramel.  So if you like your Redbush tea’s, give it a try.

On the run up to Christmas they have introduced a couple of new tea varieties.  I’ve tried out many of them, but my favourite two are the Apple and Cinnamon and the sweet ginger.   Clearly the Apple and Cinnamon has apple pie and christmas written all over it.  The smell and taste put you in a right spirit; and there is a genuine and wonderful apple taste with a good lingering hint of the cinnamon.   It’s just one of those drinks that seems to evoke memories of warm evenings and the festive season.

Sweet Ginger is not something I would have traditionally looked to try.  Ginger can be too strong a flavour and not something I would instantly think of for a tea; but this is not harsh at all.  It’s wonderfully warming and calming.  Perfect for the festive season, it makes you want to sit around a warm fire looking out at snow falling.  I take this in my flask on the way to work and the number of people on the train sniffing the air to gulp in a little more of the smell is amazing.

Tea Pigs have now launched a ‘subscribe and save’ option that allows you to put in a regular order for a little bit of discount off your third shop.  I’ve given this a try for the regular stuff and will report on how well it goes later.

It’s great to see the numbers of boutique tea shops growing and I certainly won’t stop trying the competition, but for my day-to-day tea requirements, I’m still shopping at Tea Pigs.

Recipe for Marrow Chutney

Marrow ChutneyHere is our version of Marrow Chutney – it has a little bit of bite, but nothing to worry the kids and quite warming for a winters day.  There is nothing complex about this marrow chutney recipe and uses up the last of the marrow from the garden.  You can also use Courgette if you have them spare.

So, let’s start with the ingredients…

1.5 Kg of Marrow (we also use Courgette)
Salt
250 g shallots
250 g cooking apples
250 g sultanas
20g bruised root ginger
4 teaspoonfuls of spice mix (see our simple blend below)
120 g brown sugar
1 pint (about 570 ml) vinegar

Our simple spice blend is as follows:

2 tablespoons of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons of white mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of coriander powder
1 tablespoon of turmeric

First step is quite simple and ideally needs to be done the night before.  Chop, peel and de-seed the marrow – what you want is some small cubes – about 1cm or so.  Put into a colander in the sink and sprinkle liberally with salt.  This will help to remove water and take some of the rather bitter taste out.  We usually do this last thing at night and leave covered until the morning.  Don’t skimp on the salt as it will be washed off.

Salted Diced Marrow

Next step is to do the washing.  You want to get rid of all of the salt, so wash carefully.

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Put your marrow in a large pan and start to add all of the other ingredients.  Apples and shallots need to be cut into similar sized chunks and added.  Our spice mix is simple, but you can use something like pickling spice if you wrap it in muslin and take out at the end.

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With all the ingredients added, bring to the boil slowly.  Remember there is quite a bit of vinegar in here, so this is going to be a little bit smelly.  Keep the lid on and slowly simmer until completely cooked with a thick sauce.  You can stir as you go along and this certainly does help even out the contents, but don’t over do it.

Spicy Marrow Chutney

 

Allow to cool slightly and put into steralised jars.  Best to use hot jars and lids, add hot contents and leave to slowly cool.   Once the marrow chutney is cold store in a cool dark place.  A good larder or top of the fridge is ok.   Remember to put a label on it – especially the date.

Quick review of Cetane Boosters for Veggie Oil (WVO and SVO)

The Land Rover I have, may be old, but she run’s just fine on a combination of veggie oil, biodiesel and diesel. This gives me a good choice on how I fuel the vehicle and how much I pay to fuel the vehicle. With WVO being a premium now, I am finding it ever more difficult to get good consistent sources; and then why I do find something it ends up being 50% bit of crap and 50% WVO. SVO is not my ideal choice, not only for ethical reasons (we cannot produce enough of it), but also the added things like anti-foaming/gelling agents don’t help combustion. I’ve no evidence to suggest that they are removed when used as cooking oil, but the stuff I use as WVO always seems to make a smoother sounding engine. So I’ve been testing Cetane boosters to see how effective they are with SVO and to see if they take some of the knock out of ordinary SVO.

First up is the Diesel Nitrox Cetane Booster. It claims to do the same as the much more expensive branded products. It’s one of those bottles where you have to guess a bit on how much you add, but if your doing a whole tank full it’s quite easy. It worked well and certainly reduced the diesel noise as well as appearing to give a little more performance. Nothing scientific here, it’s all perception. For the money it’s easily the best available.

For a few pounds more, you can get Millers Oils – Diesel Power Eco Max 500ml. It claims similar things, but suggests it boosts the Cetane number by 5. It’s much easier to measure how much you need to add with this bottle layout and it did just as good as job as the cheaper product’s here. It doesn’t claim anything fancy, but suggests your car will be more environmentally friendly by using less diesel and putting out less emissions. There is a tentative link to the claim, but your not saving the environment with these products directly, just helping WVO or SVO do their job better.

The last one is Morris Superclean DD. Nothing on the package to show it’s a cetane booster, but it’s in there. No claims on how high you can boost it by either; just simple honest – “this will make things a bit better” marketing. Give them credit for that. They seem to be a UK company too, but I can’t see where the product is manufactured. Like the others, it did what it said on the tin and was definitely better than nothing and as good as the others. Like the Millers Oils product, it has an easy measure which makes it a lot easier to use.

Search around for the best prices for these products, but they are all around the £7-£12 bracket for their standard size. So which one do I use? I’m sticking with Morris Superclean DD as it’s seems a good working product, with an easy measure and it does what it says on the product blurb.

Found anything better? Let me know and I will try it out.

When will the mobile operators work out that they are just wireless data providers?

When will the mobile operators work out that they are just wireless data providers? A commodity place with what needs to be commodity pricing? The likes of Vodafone and O2 desperately cling on to the hope that their value add is in reception, availability and price of their calls; when most people don’t want these things, they expect them as basic parts of the service.

Mobile operators have started to feel the data provider pinch – data based mobile messaging is killing the text message scam that the operators have enjoyed for so long. SMS messages costing up to 20p each have been a great source of income, but iMessage and Blackberry Messenger run over the internet and sip very lightly on internet bandwidth. They are cost effective and they are a sign of things to come.

The ingress of IP phones have also crept onto the smart phone. Skype, SIP phones and similar all use tiny amounts of data traffic whilst providing a good enough service. Apples own Facetime seems at this point to be banned on the data networks – not for any good reason that I can see other than quality of the connection may be too variable; but again this is a case of waiting for the mobile operators to work out that they are just a wireless data shop.

So where do they need to go? Three to some extent has the right idea – it’s all about data. Virgin Mobile in the UK are also getting there, with trials of 4G starting connected directly into Virgin’s fibre network.

But there is a problem. Mobile operators have been making a lot of cash out of basic services, long contracts and hardware lock-in. They lock people into two year contracts for whilst offering discounts on handset hardware costs. This is massively attractive for some as they pay over time and not up front. Whilst those that can afford it and are the most savy are likely to just buy their phone and take the cheapest ‘Internet’ tariff, the majority will look to continue this buying behaviour.

You can’t expect 3rd party resellers of mobile services such as Car Phone Warehouse to start selling mobile phones at a fair price and separate to a contract – it would destroy their revenue stream; but there is an opportunity out there for a companies to start selling the hardware at a fair price without a contract. A contract free phone would give the consumer the ultimate choice of provider based on real performance and not perceived value of discounted hardware.

If we want consumer choice at a fair price, we must look to break the cycle of contract based on hardware discounts. It’s time for the mobile operators to realise that they are just a wireless BT and, as BT have tried to do, they need to reinvent themselves around the highest quality of internet service and drive the cost of their core services (calls) to commodity prices.

DNSR Didcot to Newbury – the old Railway walk – Part 1

After Beechings massive railway cuts, several of the local downland branch lines have been closed. Newbury to Lambourn and Didcot to Newbury are two of the most well known. I’ve walked the Newbury to Lambourn route, something that was just amazing, following the original route in many places and touring the wonderful villages of the Downlands and Lambourn Valley. But in what I hope will form a nice series of blogs, I am going to walk the DNSR Didcot to Newbury railway in sections that I hope most people could complete and rate them for their dog walk potential.

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So I am following An Historical Survey of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway – Layouts and Illustrations and starting at the Didcot end of the route. Partially because it’s easy to get too, but also because it’s the easiest part of the route to follow (well sign posted). The route is a very easy 5 mile walk from Didcot Parkway station to the original Upton and Blewbury station.

Start: Didcot Parkway Station (DNSR terminus)

Waypoint: Upton and Blewbury Station

End: Didcot Parkway Station

Distance: 5.1 miles

Time taken: 2 hours

Elevation change: Level ground, less than 10m.

Dog walking: 2 miles on lead, 3 miles off lead. Some cattle. Lots of other dogs and people.

Track condition: Tarmac surface along entire route

Accessibility: Mostly flat, smooth ramps available. Cattle gate at Upton end restricts access. Quite a few seats available on the route.

Difficulty: Very easy walk.

 

Starting at the Train station in Didcot (called Didcot Parkway), it’s possible to follow the new link road east past Riches Sidings to a roundabout that marks the first remnants of the original embankment through Didcot. From here there are good sign posts showing routes to Upton. This largely follows the original rail line. Once out of Didcot the embankment climbs above the surrounding countryside and it’s possible to see quite a distance.

On the route back, I diverted through Didcot itself and through some of the estates and past schools. You can follow the return journey here

Didcot to Upton Railway Walk

I’ve not added pictures for this one as there are plenty on-line already.  One thing to note is that in Upton right next to the old station house there is a playing field and small playground.  If your walking with a picnic it’s a great half way point; or check out the Pub in Upton – it’s next to the old station house.

Next article… Didcot to Newbury – the old Railway walk – Part 2

 

Reference material:

Wikipedia

-DNSRR Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway Revival

Landrover Discovery 300TDI running on 100% SVO (straight veggie oil)

I’ve been running the landy on 50/50 veggie to diesel with no problem, but now the colder mornings are creaping in she is starting to get a little grumpy. Once warmed up the landy performs as usual without any clear difference (although people do feel compelled to tell me that it smells like a chip shop). I’ve added a heater element around the fuel filter which just cut’s off by thermistor when it reaches 90 degrees and kicks back in at 70; but this is just not enough for the colder mornings and days.

So, I’ve invested in something to make the veggie oil a little bit warmer (and therefore runnier) – it’s from Vow2. I’ve bought the VOW2DW+ unit which heats the oil from a couple of glow plugs and plumbs into the heating system of the engine. It pre-heats fuel on the way to the filter and warms it nicely on route to the pump and injectors.

Picture of the kit purchased.

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First off was the put the unit roughly in place and measure out the fuel pipes. It’s a bit messy cutting into the fuel pipes and removing the old connectors so don’t forget to put something under the fuel filter to catch the muck. Start with the pre-heater pipes as they are quite easy: take the fuel feed pipe from the fuel filter (i.e. the one that runs from the fuel lift pump to the fuel filter) – don’t forget to remove and keep the connector and the banjo bolt as you’ll need to re-use them on your new pipe. Measure and connect the heat exchanger inline (fuel lift pump->heat exchanger and heat exchanger to fuel filter in).

Next work on the fuel line from the fuel filter to the injector pump. Again the heat exchanger needs to be in-line so work on the fuel filter->heat exchanger and then heat exchanger->fuel pump. Don’t forget to put the small see through fuel filter inline before the pump – this will give you an idea of the level of waxing and will show you if you have any air ingress into the fuel system.

Picture below is the basic unit with fuel pipes cut to size and connectors added.

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As the location I’ve chosen for my heat exchanger is easy to get to for the fuel lines, it figures that the location is also difficult to get to for the heater water. But with a few 15mm household copper pipes, bends and a blow torch I’ve put together something that neatly allows me to cut through the inbound heater matrix water pipe (that has give or take a 15mm internal diameter). So, heater matrix inbound hot water is cut about 10cm short and plumbed directly into my 15mm copper pipe work which runs directly into the heat exchangers water input. I’ve used rubber hose connections between the copper and heat exchanger to reduce vibration. Next a short run from the heat exchanger water out to the original water heater matrix input in the bulk head. I’ve used copper to give me a good neat angle and to avoid pipes rubbing or kinking.

Now in situ with water pipes connected (in-line via the heater matrix feed). It’s a little difficult to see, so I’ll do some better photo’s later.

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At the moment it’s all just water heated, but boy does it get hot! With 80/20 (diesel/veggie oil) and outdoor temperatures of 2-5 degree’s C in the morning it all works just fine*. Next up are the electrics – with those in place I should be able to run higher levels of veggie oil without any of the ‘cold start’ problems.

 

*the definition of fine in this case is a few (well a lot) of glow plug action before starting the engine and perhaps even a few attempts to start. You need a good and working battery!